Residents of the Pruitt-Igoe housing projects in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1950s and 60s are seeking compensation after allegedly being subjected to secret government testing, the Associated Press reports.
According to reports, the U.S. Army used blowers on the top of buildings and the backs of station wagons that sprayed a carcinogen into the air close to the Pruitt-Igoe housing projects, which were predominately Black.
Congress insisted that the substance, zinc cadmium sulfide, was harmless, but residents who were exposed don't agree.
Ben Phillips, now 73, said he was a child when men were walking around in hazmat suits and running to the roofs of buildings while the substance floated in the air.
“I remember the mist,” Phillips recalled. “I remember what we thought was smoke rising out of the chimneys. Then there were machines on top of the buildings spewing this mist.”
Phillips teamed up with Chester Deanes to found the Pruitt-Igoe Historical Accounting, Compensation, and Truth Seeking (PHACTS), which seeks compensation and health studies to determine if the government’s secret testing led to the premature death and sickness of Pruitt-Igoe residents.
According to documents obtained by AP, the government and companies behind nuclear bomb production and atomic waste storage in the area were aware of the health risks and ignored them.
Army documents show the testing area was described as a "densely populated slum district” with many impoverished residents. Deanes believes the Pruitt-Igoe housing project was targeted for that reason.
“That’s why they did it. They have been experimenting on those living on the edge since I’ve known America,” Deanes said. “And, of course, they could get away with it because they didn’t tell anyone.”
Phillips and Deanes said they lost family members due to various illnesses, which could be a result of the secret testing. Phillips' mother died of cancer and his sister suffered from convulsions. Deanes' brother died from heart failure.