Ben Phillips, Pruitt-Igoe, St. Louis, projects,

Black Victims of Secret Government Cold War Testing Fighting For Compensation In St. Louis

Black victims of secret government testing near the Pruitt-Igoe housing projects are seeking compensation.

The Associated Press reported that St. Louis, MO residents subjected to the contamination of the Pruitt-Igoe housing projects in the 1950s and 60s feel the government should pay. The report stated that the U.S. Army used blowers on top of buildings and the backs of station wagons to spray a carcinogen into the air close to the Pruitt-Igoe housing projects, which were comprised of primarily Black residents.

While Congress insists the zinc cadmium sulfide was harmless, residents who experienced the chaos say otherwise.

Ben Phillips, a child at the time, said he remembers the men walking around in hazmat suits and running to the roofs of buildings while the material floated in the air. “I remember the mist,” Phillips said.

“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, now 73, and Chester Deanes founded Pruitt-Igoe Historical Accounting, Compensation, and Truth Seeking (PHACTS). They are leading the efforts to seek payment, along with health studies, that could uncover if the government’s secret testing caused premature deaths and sickness of unsuspecting Pruitt-Igoe residents.

In collaboration with The Missouri Independent and nonprofit newsroom MuckRock, an AP report uncovered documents showing the government and companies behind both the nuclear bomb production and atomic waste storage sites in surrounding areas were well aware of the health risks but simply ignored them.

Some believe it was the nuclear waste that caused the death of family members and lingering health problems.

Soon after the report was released, according to ABC News, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) issued legislation to expand the existing compensation program for exposed victims. The amendment was endorsed by the Senate and was voted on. In August, President Biden said he is “prepared to help in making sure that those folks are taken care of.”

Army documents described the testing area as “a densely populated slum district” with many impoverished residents. Deanes believes that is the reason why the area was chosen.

“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.”

Both Phillips and Deanes lost family members due to illnesses and have suffered themselves. Phillips’ mother died from cancer, while his sister suffered from convulsions doctors couldn’t understand. Deanes’ brother died from heart failure, and Phillips lost hearing in one ear because of a benign tumor.