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Residents worry as Homeland Security plans chemical warfare drills in Oklahoma
The Department of Homeland Security wants to conduct a biological chemical warfare test in Newkirk, Oklahoma, and nearly 9,000 have signed a petition to stop the drills. (Getty Images)

Residents worry as Homeland Security plans chemical warfare drills in Oklahoma

The Department of Homeland Security plans to hold chemical warfare drills that involve spraying insecticide and fertilizer in a small Oklahoma town. Residents of Newkirk and nearby towns are up in arms, saying the government is turning them into lab rats.

Nearly 9,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to stop the drills.

Under the tests, chemicals will be released into the atmosphere to gauge how quickly they can travel. The study will also examine if chemicals can “infiltrate buildings and homes where people were seeking shelter in the event of a biological attack,” Newsweek reported.

Testing is set to take place near an abandoned school in the town of 2,300 people.

What chemicals are they using?

Chemicals being used for the test include titanium dioxide, an ingredient found in sunscreen and cosmetics; a laundry detergent brightener; urea, a fertilizer; and DiPel, an insecticide, Newsweek said.

Testing would take place in January, February, June and July at the Chilocco Indian School, which is now closed. Homeland Security said it plans to spray about 600 grams of each chemical, an amount equal to a 22-ounce container of baby powder.

According to the government, the chemicals are harmless and the people have nothing to worry about — but residents aren’t buying it.

“We just don’t really know or trust that everything that they’re saying is what they’re doing,” Jill Wineinger told Newsweek.

Wineinger, who lives in nearby Arkanas City, Kansas, collected about 9,000 signatures for the Change.org petition to block the test. She started the drive shortly after DHS placed a Nov. 6 legal notice in a Newkirk paper asking for public comments.

Wineinger, 35, told Newsweek she’s allergic to urea and could be hospitalized if exposed to the chemical.

“It could saturate our homes and it could saturate our water supply,” she said, adding that she is also concerned about people with asthma and the possible contamination of crops.

A person who signed the Change.org petition cited the Tuskegee syphilis study, a secret research experiment. The study lasted from 1932 to 1972 and tracked the effects of untreated syphilis in 600 black males.

Researchers monitored participants in the study "until they died and were examined post-mortem," Newsweek noted. Participants received no treatment for the disease. In 1997, President Bill Clinton apologized to survivors of the program.

Indeed, the government has conducted other experiments on the public, especially on minorities and the disadvantaged, a National Geographic documentary "CIA Secret Experiments" pointed out.

What did Homeland Security say?

The products slated for the test are harmless to people, pets and the environment, Homeland Security said. Meanwhile, the agency is reviewing about 300 comments it received via email before making a final decision on whether to hold the test.

The experiment is needed because it helps emergency crews learn how to respond, plan for evacuations, and save lives, John Verrico, DHS science and technology directorate spokesman, stated.

Vericco maintains that people protesting the experiment simply don't understand the environmental assessment reports, or they don't like any sort of experiments.

Newsweek also cites Kitty Cardwell, an Oklahoma State University professor and director of the National Institute of Microbial Forensics for Food and Agricultural Biosecurity.

“I’m really sorry that everyone is so afraid in Newkirk, because these are very benign products,” said Cardwell, who has worked on other Homeland Security projects.

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