OT-19. Radioisotope Studies at the Fernald State School,
In the early to mid-1950s, various radiation-related studies were carried out at the Fernald State
School in Waverly, Massachusetts, using students as subjects. In a study addressing calcium
metabolism, nine adolescent males, institutionalized for mental inadequacy but otherwise physically
normal, ranging in age from 10 to 15 years, and one 21-year-old male participated as subjects.
The adolescents received 0.7 microcurie of calcium-45 (Ca-45). The subjects were divided into two
groups: one group was administered the Ca-45 intravenously, the other received it orally. One month
later, 0.74 microcurie was administered, but the means of administration was reversed between the
groups. Two years later, 2.02 microcuries of Ca-45 were administered to the 21-year-old subject
(who by then was 23). The studies showed that calcium is retained in the body for some time and
that it is eventually excreted more through urine than feces.
A second study addressed thyroid function in Down s syndrome subjects and their parents.
Twenty-one male and female Down s syndrome students ranging in age from 5 to 26 years
participated, as did 5 female and 2 male normal parents of these students. The students were orally
administered 70 microcuries of iodine-131 (I-131). The parents received 100 microcuries. Thyroid
uptake, turnover, and urinary excretion were subsequently measured. Additionally, thyroxine
metabolism was studied in two Down s syndrome students after intravenous injection of 55
microcuries of thyroxine labeled with I-131.
These studies showed that iodine uptake was in the low-normal range and did not differ significantly
from normal values; that the iodine turnover rate was significantly faster than normal; that the
thyroxine turnover rate was normal; and that the uptake, turnover, and excretion rates in parents of
Down s syndrome children were normal. These studies were supported in part by the U.S. Atomic
Energy Commission. (Included in The DOE Roadmap of February 1995)
Bronner, F., R.S. Harris, C.J. Maletskos, and C.E. Benda. Studies in Calcium Metabolism. The Fate
of Intravenously Injected Radiocalcium in Human Beings. Journal of Clinical Investigation. Vol. 35,
1956, pp. 78 88.
Kurland, G.S., J. Fishman, M.W. Hamolsky, and A.S. Freedberg. Radioisotope Study of Thyroid
Function in 21 Mongoloid Subjects Including Observations in 7 Parents. Journal of Endocrinology
and Metabolism. Vol. 17, 1957, pp. 552 560.
Human Radiation Experiments Associated with the U.S. Department
of Energy and Its Predecessors Department of Energy
Return to Selected Descriptions of AEC Experiments
involving Human Subjects