Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Friday, 23 April 2004 16:07 UK

'No health link' at Porton Down

Ronald Maddison
Mr Maddison thought he was helping to cure the common cold

A two-year study of veterans involved in chemical tests has found no clinical evidence linking ill health to a volunteer programme at Porton Down.

Up to 111 ex-volunteers were referred to the assessment programme at St Thomas's Hospital, London, between February 2001 and July 2003.

Most took part in a 1950s research programme involving exposure to chemical warfare agents.

A spokesman said no unusual patterns of disease were found among volunteers.

'No adverse effects'

Anyone who feared their health was damaged by taking part in the tests was offered the chance of a full examination at St Thomas' through referral from their own GP.

But a team led by Professor Harry Lee found the illnesses the veterans were suffering from were consistent with what might be expected in a pool of men of similar age from the population at large.

"On a clinical basis, we could find nothing to support the idea that participation in the Porton Down Volunteer Programme had produced any adverse long-term health effects," said the professor.

"Similarly, we were unable to find any unusual patterns of disease."

Ivor Caplin, Under Secretary of State for Defence, said: "We welcome Professor Lee's studies and hope these results will be reassuring to volunteers who made such vital contributions to important research at Porton Down.

Second inquest

"However, we also recognise that some volunteers may still have worries about their participation in the volunteer programme.

"We shall continue to work closely with those people and listen to their concerns."

A second inquest into the death of one serviceman involved in the tests at the Wiltshire base is to open in May.

Airman Ronald Maddison, from County Durham, died at the MoD laboratories in 1953.

The decision to hold a second inquest was taken last year after the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, quashed the original inquest verdict of death by misadventure.

The inquest will open in Trowbridge on 5 May and is expected to last two months.

Porton Down review opens
12 Feb 04 |  Wiltshire
Porton Down death inquest delayed
07 Nov 03 |  Wiltshire
Date set for nerve gas inquest
28 Oct 03 |  Wiltshire

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