The National Research Foundation is investigating allegations the Army tested Agent Orange decades ago at Fort Detrick. The Maryland Department of Health has already begun its own investigation.
Residents in the Frederick area surrounding the Fort have been searching for answers why so many neighbors are dying from cancer. Fort Detrick officials rarely speak in public about the issue and repeatedly turned down requests for more information from the public and the press.
The Garrison’s top commander told the National Academy of Sciences.
“Our concern is to continue to communicate openly with the Frederick community. We are here because we care,” said Col. Judith Robinson, Fort Detrick commander.
Witnesses at the time told ABC7 the Army minimized the testing of Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals.
“All the work that was done outdoors was done in these little tents,” said Robert Craig, a Fort Detrick historian. “It was done with handheld sprayers … These guys aren’t even wearing masks.”
When Jennifer Peppe-Hahn tried to ask about warnings from Dow Chemical to Detrick in the 60s, she was cut off and told the public wasn’t allowed to ask questions, she said.
Peppe-Hahn grew up near Fort Detrick and has battled both Hodgkins and breast cancer from when she was 13 years old.
“There seems to be an inordinate amount of younger people developing cancer in the area. There was another young man who would have graduated in my class who had leukemia the same time I had Hodgkins and he died,” Peppe-Hahn said.
Advocates for cancer victims have faced some resistance from the community, where many depend for the Fort for livelihood.
“We're not trying to kill Fort Detrick. We're trying to prevent future contamination that would kill human beings,” said Rachel Pisani of the Kristen Renee Foundation. “There's no amount of money that I could put on a human life. And that's what I would say - livelihood is not worth death.”