The Plutonium Files
America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War
By Eileen Welsome
(Delta, Paperback, 9780385319546, 592pp.)
Publication Date: October 10, 2000
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In a Massachusetts school, seventy-three disabled children were spoon fed radioactive isotopes along with their morning oatmeal....In an upstate New York hospital, an eighteen-year-old woman, believing she was being treated for a pituitary disorder, was injected with plutonium by Manhattan Project doctors....At a Tennessee prenatal clinic, 829 pregnant women were served "vitamin cocktails"--in truth, drinks containing radioactive iron--as part of their prenatal treatmen....
In 1945, the seismic power of atomic energy was already well known to researchers, but the effects of radiation on human beings were not. Fearful that plutonium would cause a cancer epidemic among workers, Manhattan Project doctors embarked on a human experiment that was as chilling as it was closely guarded: the systematic injection of unsuspecting Americans with radioactive plutonium. In this shocking exposé, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Eileen Welsome reveals the unspeakable scientific trials that reduced thousands of American men, women, and even children to nameless specimens with silvery radioactive metal circulating in their veins. Spanning the 1930s to the 1990s, filled with hundreds of newly declassified documents and firsthand interviews, The Plutonium Files traces the behind-the-scenes story of an extraordinary fifty-year cover-up. It illuminates a shadowy chapter in this country's history and gives eloquent voice to the men and women who paid for our atomic energy discoveries with their health--and sometimes their lives.
In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Eileen Welsome has received the George Polk Award for National Reporting and the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, among other honors. She currently resides in Denver.
"A deeply shocking and important exposé... Anyone who cares about America's history, moral health and future should read this book."
-- Publishers Weekly
"There should have been--and should now be--hundreds of other reporters out there doing what [Welsome] has so brilliantly done here."
"A remarkable tale... Welsome doesn't merely report [the] facts. She brings the characters to life, and re-creates settings, dialogue and events."
-- The San Diego Union-Tribune
"Compelling...[Welsome's] portraits of leading officials are vivid and subtle, wonderfully capturing [their] deep moral ambivalence."
-- Los Angeles Times
"[An] expansive and valuable account...engrossing."
-- The New York Times Book Review