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Warfare Exposure

Warfare Exposure

The DOD and the VA play distinct roles dealing with CB exposures. DOD identifies and validates veteran’s exposure to CB agents and provides the names of individuals along with their exposure information to the VA. The VA then notifies individuals of their potential exposure, provides treatment, if necessary, for these individuals and adjudicates any claim for compensation.


How much information can I divulge about my exposure, since I signed a "secrecy oath"?


In 1993, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Perry issued a memorandum on "Chemical Weapons Research Programs Using Human Test Subjects." The memorandum released "any individuals who participated in testing, production, transportation or storage associated with any chemical weapons research conducted prior to 1968 from any non-disclosure restrictions or written or oral prohibitions (e.g., oaths of secrecy) that may have been placed on them concerning their possible exposure to any chemical weapons agents."

Secretary Perry also directed the Services to initiate procedures to release individuals who participated in testing, production, transportation or storage associated with any chemical weapons research after 1968 from any non-disclosure restrictions that may have been placed on them. Since most information relating to this research has been declassified, at least in part, Force Health Protection and Readiness has determined that participants in chemical-related research after 1968 may talk about their individual experiences to the Department of Defense (DoD) or the Department of Veterans Affairs without violating their oath of secrecy.

In January 2011, another memo, "Release from Secrecy Oaths Under Chem-Bio Research Programs", was released. This new memo clarifies and expands the 1993 directive to include biological weapons test subjects.


What databases does the Department of Defense (DOD) maintain on veterans exposed to chemical and biological agents?


DOD maintains a Project 112/SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense) database. This database contains the names of veterans who participated in Project 112/SHAD testing in the 1960s and 1970s. It contains 6,400 names and is updated as needed when we discover additional veterans who were part of this testing. DOD also maintains a database containing the names of veterans who participated in mustard agent tests during World War II. The total numbers to date are 6,730. DOD is also currently in the process of populating our third exposure database, the Cold War Exposure database, which numbers 30,726. This database contains the names of veterans not included in other databases who participated in chemical and biological testing since World War II.

The total number for all of the databases currently is 43,856.


Who maintains the database for veterans exposed to radiation?


The Defense Threat Reduction Agency maintains information on veterans exposed to radiation during the Nuclear Test Personnel Review (NTPR) Program.


In addition to names and service numbers, what other information does the DOD database contain?


For each individual, the database will contain the following if available:

  • Type of test (i.e., performance, equipment, etc.)
  • Type of exposure (i.e., injection, intravenous (IV), etc.)
  • Date of exposure
  • Agent/simulant name
  • Agent/simulant amount if recorded
  • Treatments required as a result of the exposure
  • Documents describing the test procedures, if available.


I think that I may have been involved in a test. How can I confirm it or get more information?


If you need help verifying your possible participation in any of the tests or have information about the testing, please call the Department of Defense's contact managers at (800) 497-6261, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST.

Alternatively, you may write to us at:

Health Readiness Policy & Oversight
ATTN: CB Exposures Manager
7700 Arlington Blvd.
Falls Church, VA 22042

If you'd like to speak with a Veterans Affairs (VA) representative, call the Special Issues Helpline at 1-800-749-8387. Many states offer services and benefits to veterans. To find out more about a particular state, please visit the VA State Veterans Affairs page.


What substances were used during testing?


The Department of Defense (DOD) has identified more than 400 substances used during testing. Not all the substances were harmful as DOD tested many medicines and antidotes. These substances may be broken down as follows:

  • Chemical Agents (e.g., nerve agents, irritants)
  • Biological Agents (e.g., tularemia)
  • Vaccines (e.g., tularemia vaccines)
  • Hallucinogenic drugs (e.g., LSD)
  • Antidotes (e.g., atropine)
  • Medicines (e.g., Benadryl)
  • Other (e.g., alcohol, saline solution)
  • Tracers
  • Placebos


Does the Department of Defense still conduct human experimentation with chemical and biological warfare agents?


No. Current medical chemical & biological defense programs involving human subjects do not involve the exposure of these subjects to chemical or biological warfare agents.

There are medical chemical & biological defense programs that involve the use of human subjects in controlled clinical trials to test and evaluate the safety and effectiveness, of medical products (drugs, therapies, etc.) to protect against chemical agents. The use of human subjects in these trials involves volunteers who have provided informed consent. All use of human subjects in these trials is in full compliance with the "Common Rule," Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), DOD Directives and Instructions, and all other applicable laws, regulations, issuances, and requirements.


Does the Department of Defense (DOD) know where all the documents relating to chemical/biological agent testing are stored?


The contractor doing the research for DOD on potential exposures has over 10 years of experience working with potential exposures. This experience enabled them to quickly identify major document storage locations and to prioritize their search efforts. More important is whether or not a storage site catalogued its documents. If a storage site did not catalogue its collection, researchers must comb through all material to locate the small subset that contains exposure information. This slows down the search effort.

Before terminating our efforts to locate potential chemical and biological exposures, DOD will work with its contractor to insure that the contractor did not miss any storage site that potentially contained a significant number of exposures.

Last Updated: February 27, 2024
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