During 1953 and 1954, seven newborn babies--six of whom were black--were injected with radioactive iodide at the John Gaston Hospital, a now defunct public hospital in Memphis, TN. The study was conducted by Lester Van Middlesworth, now professor emeritus of physiology, biophysics and medicine at the University of Tennessee's College of Medicine. Middlesworth claims race was not a factor, telling the Albuquerque Tribune, "It [Gaston Hospital] was primarily a charity hospital and a large percentage of the charity internees were Black." Yet Middlesworth wrote in a 1954 report that the "use of radiation in the very young organisms is open to question." And in an interview with Tribune staff writer Eileen Welsome he says, "Naturally we hoped there was no damage." But he also reveals that he lost track of the babies and never did any follow-up on their health.
John Gofman, a leading scientist on the effects of low-level radiation and professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley put it plainly by saying the children would have an increased risk of getting cancer and "To do nothing is criminal..." To date officials have located the names of the babies involved (they would be in their late 30s now) and are in the process of contacting them, but DOE official Mike Gauldin admitted last December that his agency didn't "have any information about these specific experiments and don't know anything about them." Equally ominous is that five other similar experiments were carried out in Detroit, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Iowa City, Iowa, with a total of 235 newborns and older infants experimented on.