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Army disputes woman's claim of danger from bacillus subtilis

By CHRISTINA STUEVE
News Tribune
Friday, October 27, 2000

VERSAILLES -- About 250 people attended a town hall meeting Thursday evening that Joyce Riley vonKleist, Versailles, called an "emergency" meeting to address issues surrounding bacillus subtilis, a simulate used in training exercises at Ft. Leonard Wood.

vonKleist says the simulate is known to cause spontaneous abortions in sheep and cattle, upper respiratory infections, eye infections, and can affect people with compromised immune systems, including the elderly, chronically ill, and the very young.

Major Derik Crotts, director of public affairs at Ft. Leonard Wood, said bacillus subtilis is an ingredient commonly found in the environment that dies quickly when exposed to the sun.

Ft. Leonard Wood conducts five-week biological defense training courses four times a year for soldiers operating biological detection systems. He said the course is designed to provide early detection of biological hazards on the battlefield. Ft. Leonard Wood is limited in its release of the simulate. No more than 49.5 pounds a year or four pounds in 24 hours can be used.

"We're using the substance within the guidelines of these agencies," Crotts said, referring to regulations set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Our goal is to conduct safe, realistic and challenging training to ensure forces are ready when needed."

During the meeting in Versailles, vonKleist showed photographs of soldiers she said were severely injured from biological chemicals used during the Gulf War and she circulated a petition among the people in attendance.

vonKleist served as a flight nurse during the Persian Gulf War. She is a captain in the Air Force Reserves, but has been inactive since 1993, according to records from the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, Colo.

According to a statement from the Missouri Department of Health, the agency has done independent research, including discussions with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health on bacillus subtilis. Their research shows the organism is safe for research purposes.

The Environmental Protection Agency says bacillus subtilis has no risks to human health, because no adverse effects have been reported. It is commonly used by farmers for beans, corn, peas, soybeans, barley, wheat, and peanuts.

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