THE POISON SQUAD
Vulnuratus, non victus.--Proverb
"The commander of the forces of a large state may be carried off, but the will of even a common man can not be taken from him."
In the foregoing pages attention was called tothe experiments making on healthy young men to determine the influence of preservativesand coloring matters on health and digestion. The general method of conducting theseinvestigations was discussed. Altogether nearly five years were devoted to theseexperimental determinations, beginning in 1902 and lasting until 1907.
The total number of substances studied was seven,namely, boric acid and borax, salicylic acid and salicylates, benzoic acid and benzoates,sulphur dioxide and sulphites, formaldehyde, sulphate of copper, and saltpeter.
Reports of these investigations were published,with the exception of sulphate of copper and saltpeter, which were denied publication.In 1908 further investigations of this kind were allotted to the Remsen Board whoseactivities will be described in the following pages. The Bureau of Chemistry was"grievously wounded but not conquerered" by this transfer of its activities.
ANOTHER THREATENING STORM
Anyone who has observed the occurrence of tornados,cyclones, and thunder storms, especially in the spring, has noticed their tendencyto occur in groups. This is especially true of any particular locality and generallyof those parts of our country in which these visitations, often destructive to lifeand property, are common. The storms which threatened the integrity of the food lawwere of this kind. They were different, however, from the caprices of the weatherin the time of the year they occurred. The most threatening of them arose, not inthe spring, but in the winter of 1907. The transfer of authority to execute the lawfrom the Bureau of Chemistry to the Board of Food and Drug Inspection, and from thatBoard to the Solicitor, was a very good introduction to what occurred soon afterJanuary 1st, 1907. Even after the Bureau of Chemistry was deprived of its power ofautonomy, it still retained intact its function of judging what was a threat to health.
Prior to the enactment of the food and drugslaw it was evident from the increase in popular interest in this matter that theenlistment of organized bodies of men and women interested in securing this legislationwould sooner or later become effective. It was considered the part of wisdom to preparefor this much wished-for consummation. Numerous attempts had been made before theCongress of the United States to change the wording of the proposed bill in sucha way as to eliminate the Bureau of Chemistry as the active executive organizationof the law when passed. All of these attempts had been almost unanimously negativedby the Congress as often as they were offered. It seemed, therefore, quite certainthat when the law finally was secured the Bureau of Chemistry would be retained asits executive agent. As early as 1902 authority was obtained from Congress to carryon feeding experiments on healthy young men. The language of the law follows:
"To enable the Secretary of Agriculture to investigate the character of food preservatives, coloring matters, and other substances added to foods, to determine their relation to digestion and to health, and to establish the principles which should guide their use."
The object was to see if the preservatives andcoloring matters added to foods would have any effect upon the digestion and healthof these young men. Young men as a rule are more resistant to effects of this kindthan children or older persons. They represent the maximum of resistance to deleteriousfoods. The deduction from this theory is that if the young men thus selected showedsigns of injury other citizens of the country less resistant would be more seriouslyinjured. Having received authority from Congress to proceed in this matter, a smallkitchen and dining room were provided in the basement of the Bureau and a call issuedfor volunteers to join this experimental class. We asked chiefly employees of theBureau. We had no difficulty in securing twelve healthy young men who volunteeredtheir services and took an oath to obey all rules and regulations which should beprescribed for the experimental dining table. Their term of enlistment was made forone year. Up to this time no such extensive experiment on human beings had been plannedanywhere in the world. It was not necessary to ask any publicity to this matter.It was a problem which interested not only newspaper reporters and editors, but thepublic at large. One reporter who was most constant in his attendance, and this wasthe beginning of his reportorial work, had the happy faculty of presenting the progressof the experiment in terms which appealed to the public imagination. He early designatedthis band of devoted young men as "The Poison Squad." There was rarelya day in which he did not visit the experimental table and write some interestingitem in regard thereto. This cub reporter is now the celebrated author of the "Post-Scripts"in the Washington Post, George Rothwell Brown.
The Dining Room of "The Poison Squad"
LENGTH AND PURPOSE OF THE EXPERIMENT
For five years these experiments continued andinvestigations of an extensive character were carried on with the preservatives whichwere in most common use. The chemical and physiological data accumulated were vastin extent and presented great difficulties in interpretation. Following the ruleadopted by the Bureau, every doubtful problem was resolved in favor of the Americanconsumer. This appeared the only safe ethical ground to occupy. Decisions againstthe manufacturers who used these bodies could be reviewed in the courts when thefood law became established, whereas if these doubtful problems had been resolvedin favor of the manufacturers the consumer would have had no redress. Without goinginto further detail in regard to these experiments it may be said that one of thecommon colors and all the common preservatives used in foods were banned from useby a unanimous verdict against them.
The greater part of these data was publishedas parts of Bulletin 84, Bureau of Chemistry. They comprise: Part I--Boric Acid andBorax; Part II--Salicylic Acid and Salicylates; Part III--Sulphurous Acid and Sulphites;Part IV-Benzoic Acid and Benzoates; Part V--Formaldehyde; Part VI--Sulphate of Copper;Part VII--Saltpeter.
When the data relating to benzoic acid were submitted,the Remsen Board had already been appointed. The Secretary, about to depart on vacation,sent for George W. Hill, Editor of the Department, and said:
"Publish what you like during my absence except that the bulletin on benzoic acid is not to go to the printer."
Mr. Hill misunderstood his instructions. He sentthe benzoate bulletin to the public printer with instructions to hurry it through.When the Secretary returned the printing was finished. A reprint of it was promptlydenied. The total number of pages in the parts of Bulletin 84 which have been publishedis 1500.
DATA REFUSED PUBLICATION
Vigorous protests from those engaged in adulteratingand misbranding foods were made to the Secretary of Agriculture against any furtherpublicity in this direction. As a result of these protests he refused publicationof Parts VI and VII of Bulletin 84. Part VI contained a study of the effects on healthand digestion of sulphate of copper added to our foods. The conclusions drawn bythe Bureau were adverse to its use. The Remsen Board subsequently made a study ofsulphate of copper and reached a like decision. The ban on copper was based on thework of the Remson Board and not on that of the Bureau, which preceded it by threeyears. During this interval the use of this deleterious product was unrestricted.
The seventh part treated of the use of saltpeter,particularly in meats. Owing to the well-known results of the depressing effectsof saltpeter on the gonads, and for other reasons, the Bureau refused to approvethe use of this coloring agent in cured meats. These two bulletins still repose inthe morgue of the Department of Agriculture. They are not, however, deprived of companionship.In the testimony of the Secretary of Agriculture before the committee on expendituresin the Department of Agriculture (the Moss Committee), it is found that the followingadditional manuscripts prepared by the Bureau of Chemistry were refused publication,namely, Experiments Looking to Substitutes for Sulphur Dioxides in Drying Fruits,by W. D. Bigelow; Corn Sirup as a Synonym for Glucose, offered for publication in1907; Sanitary Conditions of Canneries, Based on Results of Inspection, by A. W .Bitting, offered for publication in 1908; Reprint of Part IV of Benzoic Acid andBenzoates, asked for in 1909; Medicated Soft Drinks, by L. F. Kebler, offered in1909; Drug Legislation in the United States, by C. H. Greathouse, offered in 1909;Food Legislation to June 30, 1909, offered in 1910; The Estimation of Glycerine inMeat Preparations, by C. F. Cook, offered in March, 1910; Technical Drug Studies,by L. F. Kebler, offered in 1910; Experiments on the Spoilage of Tomato Ketchup,by A. W. Bitting, offered in 1911; the Influence of Environment on the Sugar Contentof Cantaloupes, by M. N. Straugh and C. G. Church, offered in May, 1911; A BacteriologicalStudy of Eggs in the Shell and of Frozen and Desiccated Eggs, by G. W. Stiles, May,1911; The Arsenic Content of Shellac, offered June, 1911.
All of these publications are in the morgue.They were objected to by parties using preservatives and coloring matters and articlesadulterated with arsenic, and these protests against publication were approved andput in force by the Secretary of Agriculture. In other words, all the principleswhich animated the Inquisition were used by the Department of Agriculture to preventany further dissemination of the studies and conclusions of the Bureau in regardto the wholesomeness of our foods. The whole power of the Department of Agriculturewas enlisted in the service of adulteration which tended to destroy the health ofthe American consumer. On the appointment of the Remsen Board further investigationsby the Bureau were ordered to be suspended.
Further information regarding the activitiesof the Poison Squad were presented to the Committee of Interstate and Foreign Commerceduring the final hearings on the Food and Drug Legislation. This information hasthe distinguishing tone of question and answer which adds much to its interest andvalue. Quotations from those hearings follow:
THE BORAX INVESTIGATION
HEARINGS BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON INTERSTATE
AND FOREIGN COMMERCE
DR. WILEY: Now, I want to introduce the borax bulletin in evidence;not to have it copied, but simply to have it as an exhibit, because all of you havecopies in your desks. That will answer the question which was asked me yesterdayabout the kind of work done by these young men. You gentlemen need only to glancethrough this book of 477 pages to see the amount of labor that has been put uponthis investigation.
MR. TOWNSEND: When did you begin your investigation of boricacid?
DR. WILEY: In the autumn of 1902.
MR. TOWNSEND: How long were you experimenting on that?
DR. WILEY: We were from the 1st of October to the 1st of thefollowing July.
MR. TOWNSEND: About nine months?
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir.
MR. TOWNSEND: How soon after that did you make a report?
DR. WILEY: On the 25th of June, 1904; just about a year afterthe close of the investigation.
MR. TOWNSEND: You did not publish it in 1903?
DR. WILEY: We published a synopsis--a preliminary report--in1903.
MR. TOWNSEND: You said yesterday that you had not had time,as I remember it, or had not been able--I don't remember just exactly how you answeredit--to report your investigation of benzoic acid, which had only occupied three monthsand which was completed in the fall, as I remember it, of 1902.
DR. WILEY: On benzoic acid?
MR. TOWNSEND: Yes; benzoic. acid.
DR. WILEY: The benzoic-acid investigation was not begun untilthe spring of 1904, and was completed before November, 1904.
MR. TOWNSEND: Are you sure about that? As I took it down yesterdayin a note, it was begun in the fall of 1902.
DR. WILEY: Then you misunderstood me; it was not. I was referringto the time I commenced the first investigation.
MR. TOWNSEND: Then I misunderstood you. Who assisted you inmaking those investigations on borax and benzoic acid?
DR. WILEY: About twenty or twenty-five men besides the subjects.
MR. TOWNSEND: Were any of them of national reputation as scientists?
DR. WILEY: Dr. Bigelow, who is here, is a man of good reputation.He is the one who collaborated with me in, particular. The others are chemists infair standing, but they are not men of great reputation in a personal way.
MR. TOWNSEND: Connected with the Department?
DR. WILEY: Connected with the Department of Agriculture here;yes, sir. I will explain the method of investigation briefly, because I know yougentlemen do not care to read this voluminous document.
The young men were selected mostly from the Department of Agriculture--Ibelieve the first were all from the Department of Agriculture. They were young menwho had passed the civil-service examinations, and therefore came to us with a goodcharacter, as is usual in such cases. These young men were volunteers. We explainedto them fully the character of the work that we proposed to do, not particularlystating what we were going to give them, or how, but what our general purpose was,and that was to place in good wholesome foods certain quantities, which we were toselect ourselves, of the ordinary preservatives and coloring matters used in foods,and to feed them on these foods with such materials in them.
MR. TOWNSEND: Exclusively with those materials?
DR. WILEY: Oh, no. I will explain, and you will understand howwe did it. These men signed a pledge in which they agreed on their honor to carryout all the necessary regulations. They signed a pledge to eat nothing or drink nothingexcepting what we gave them at the table. They signed a pledge to pursue their ordinaryvocations without any excesses and to take their ordinary hours of sleep. They agreedthat they would collect and present to us every particle of their secreta, so thatnone of it should be lost, and to follow out the rules and regulations necessaryto carry out the conduct of the work.
MR. ESCH: Did you require any physical examination?
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir; we had a surgeon detailed from the PublicHealth Service, who examined all of these men physically and saw that they had nodisease, and that they had had no disease within a year, or any sickness of any kind.
MR. TOWNSEND: They were allowed to live at their homes?
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir.
MR. TOWNSEND: How did you collect their perspiration?
DR. WILEY: Perspiration was not collected excepting in one case.We collected perspiration in one case to determine how much borax was exuded throughthe skin, but in no other.
MR. BARTLETT: You had a release if they died?
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir; from any injury that they might receive.
That was their preliminary work. The first thing which we didwas to ascertain, by their own choice largely, the character of good wholesome foodsto be used, absolutely free of adulterants, a natural diet which would keep theirbodies in a state of equilibrium so that, neither the question of added weight orof losing weight--that is to say, in a fore period, which was a period of about tendays, the body was weighed every day, the amount of food which they ate was weighed,and if they gained a little we cut it off, and if they lost a little we added a littleto it--so that by the end of ten days we could get their normal ration. Meanwhiletheir excreta were collected and analyzed, so that we had a complete check on thenormal metabolic process by which the food was utilized in the body and the refusematter excreted. You will understand that the only excretions that we got were theurine and the feces. All of the others were so small in proportion to the whole massthat they were neglected; in fact, it is impossible to get them; no one has everattempted it. Then we began by adding to the food one of the common preservatives--boraxwas first. We had twelve young men, and to six of them we gave borax in the formof boracic acid, and to the other six borate of soda, to see if there was any differencein the effect of those two forms of borax attending the metabolic process.
MR. TOWNSEND: Did you explain that this was a dangerous process?
DR. WILEY: We told them that they might receive some injuryfrom it.
MR. TOWNSEND: That is the reason you took a release?
DR. WILEY: We certainly would not ask the young men to submitto it without an explanation. We told them, of course, that there was no danger bypoisons, but that there might be some disturbance to their systems.
MR. TOWNSEND: You thought that there was nothing; but you tooka release because there was danger of losing life, in a sense.
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir; we kept nothing from them at all.
MR. TOWNSEND: Do you think that had any effect upon them?
DR. WILEY: We discuss that in the book. That has been one ofthe objections urged against this work, and it would be urged against any work ofthe same kind.
MR. CUSHMAN: Is that the bunch known to the public as the "poisonsquad"?
DR. WILEY: That is the one. I suppose it was the most widelyadvertised boarding house in the world.
Now, when we had established their normal diet, then they agreedto eat it every day whether they wanted it or not, because that was the importantpart of the experiment, that the food ingestion must be constant, otherwise you couldnot study the effect of the added substance on metabolism.
MR. TOWNSEND: Do you explain the effect in your book?
DR. WILEY: That is all explained in the greatest detail.
Now, of course, they did that as long as their digestion wasnot impaired. When it did become impaired they were released at once from any furtheradministration of the drug. That was all we wanted to do--to get the first effects,never any more. We did not carry it to any extreme. Once a man was undoubtedly affectedhe was released. You may ask how we knew how any disturbance produced was due toborax, and I answer because we eliminated all the variables but that one. in thecase of the man who had led the same life, pursued the same vocation, eaten the samefood, and who did the same things, the only variable was the preservative; so thatif the variations are those which would be expected to be produced by such a variable,we logically traced the result of those variations to that one variable, and especiallyso if when we withdrew it the disturbance was removed. Then the symptoms which hadensued would be removed, and that was additional proof. Therefore as far as possiblewe ruled out every influence excepting the one which we were controlling. Then wehad what we called "periods" of five days, so that we studied them in periodsof five days. We called it the first preservative period, the second preservativeperiod, and so on, until we had usually the preservative periods lasting for abouttwenty days. That was the usual rule. That was followed by a period in which nothingbut pure food was given for ten days, the object being if possible to restore theman to the normal state. I will say very frankly that ten days as a rule was notlong enough to do that; but as they then had a holiday and rested for some time,it didn't make so much difference to us.
MR. TOWNSEND: What do you mean by a holiday?
DR. WILEY: We kept our table going all the time, but when aman had worked for about forty days on these experiments we then allowed forty days'rest, the same time that we had been working on him.
MR. BARTLETT: That is, you discontinued this character of food.
DR. WILEY: We gave him then nothing but pure food. We did nothave to measure his food or collect his excreta; and he simply rested and got readyfor another trial.
Now, in our first year's work we only fed six men at a time,so that we had constant observation--six men on holiday and six men on observation--butin subsequent investigations we found it much more convenient to feed all of themen at the same time and give them the holiday at the same time. That appears fromthe fact that the chemical work, so far as analysis of foods is concerned, is justas great for six men as it is for twelve, because we did not analyze each person'sfood, but the food which we gave all, so that we knew the composition of it. Thereforeone analysis would do for a hundred men just as well as six. But the excreta thatwere turned in had to be analyzed separately--that is, every day, or the compositefor a number of days, whichever seemed desirable.
MR. TOWNSEND: When you examined that excreta: did you examinefor any other substance besides boric acid or benzoic acid?
DR. WILEY: In the digestion of food the process is of two kinds.We have what is called metabolized food and nonmetabolized food, which is found largelyin the feces. Parts of the feces never enter the system at all; they are the refusematter, and therefore we say that they are.nonmetabolized. We simply wanted to determinehow much protein, how much fat, how much sugar, etc., had come out in the feces andhad escaped digestion. Then we examined the urine, which contains the principal partof the degradation products of the metabolized food. When the food enters the system,after the process of digestion, it has two great functions, as you gentlemen know.One is to supply heat and energy. That food is all burned up and converted into waterand carbon dioxide, just the same as you burn a piece of coal in the fire and convertit into carbon dioxide and into water. And the great mass of food which we eat isburned in the body and produces heat and energy. Of course the water and the carbondioxide that come from the lungs and the skin we did not collect.
Then the food which goes to build the tissues, or enters intothe tissue, pushes out the degradation products in the same quantity when the bodyis in equilibrium, just as you fill a tube full of marbles, and when you put onemarble in it you will push out another at the other end. Now, if I feed you on nitrogento-day or to-morrow, when I go to determine the nitrogen in your urine I do not determinethe nitrogen that you have eaten to-day or yesterday, but if your body is in equilibriumthe amount of nitrogen pushed out is exactly what you push in. That is what we callthe balance, and in that way we can determine whether any substance added to thefood disturbs the metabolic process and interferes with digestion. And you can onlydetermine it in that way. The amount of disturbance is so slight that you will nevernotice it and yet so pronounced that our chemical balance will reveal it.
MR. BARTLETT: Doctor, I see in the bill of fare that you givehere that some of the gentlemen took cranberries. What did you add to the cranberries,anything?
DR. WILEY: No, sir; we took cranberries without anything. Wedid not add any benzoic acid to those. I say that we used the ordinary foods, a plainration, so that each man would eat on the same day the same number of calories, thesame amount of nitrogen, the same amount of phosphoric acid, the same amount of sulphur.We gave an excellent food, the very best of the retailed canned goods. I will saythat nearly all of our vegetables are canned vegetables. That shows our attitudetoward canned foods, which has been said to be very hostile. We used them becausethey are more uniform in character, and when put up by reputable firms are apt tobe better than the vegetables that you can buy in the open market. Our canned foodswere canned to order, so that all that we used during the year were exactly alike.And so important was that fact in the eyes of an enterprising advertiser that hewent to one of the firms that sold us these goods--we didn't buy all from one firm--andwanted them to pay him hundreds of dollars to write articles saying that we wereusing his canned foods. Of course, we promptly refused to allow his name to be used.
MR. LOVERING: Did these young men know when they were eatingpure food or not, and in what proportion?
DR. WILEY: They did not know what it was, necessarily, or howmuch. That was our business. All they knew was the fact that they were using something.
MR. MANN: For a long time the daily papers published what theywere being fed upon.
DR. WILEY: You can not always rely upon newspaper accounts ofscientific investigations.
MR. MANN: I suppose the young men read the accounts, and ifyou did not tell them exactly what they were being fed they might have thought theywere being fed on something else.
MR. RYAN: This so-called "poison squad" was selectedfrom employees of the various departments.
DR. WILEY: Almost altogether from the Department of Agriculture.We had a few from the other departments, however, and a few from a medical school.
MR. RYAN: Did they receive additional compensation for enteringinto this?
DR. WILEY: Not those that were in our Department. Those thatcame from the outside were paid $5 a month in addition to the other. We had to givethem some compensation; they could not serve in the Department under other circumstances,because it was illegal. We gave them a mere nominal sum so as to make their employmentlegal. We would not take anybody who was not in the Department in some capacity.
MR. BARTLETT: Did you use real butter or oleomargarine?
DR. WILEY: The butter was made to order, and contained neithersalt nor coloring matter--pure butter.
MR. ESCH: How about milk?
DR. WILDY: The milk came from dairies inspected by the Districtauthorities and by myself.
MR. ESCH: Did you at any time adulterate the milk?
Dim. WILEY: We sometimes put the preservative we used in themilk.
MR. BARTLETT: Formaldehyde?
DR. WILEY: Formaldehyde we did constantly, and borax part ofthe time.
MR. ESCH: How did the health of these men continue; have youany statistics on that?
DR. WILEY: That is all here; everything is recorded in full.
MR. CUSHMAN: Can you tell, in a general way, some of the symptoms,or would that be interrupting the effect of your remarks?
DR. WILEY: If you would like a résumé of the boraxmatter, I will give that in a few words. I will take the experiment where we gavea minimum quantity, such as you would ordinarily get if you ate meat and butter containingone-half of 1 per cent of borax, in the ordinary quantities of meat and butter andother preserved foods which a healthy man would eat. With the ordinary quantitiesof butter and meat preserved with borax there would be consumed about 7-1/2 grainsof borax per day by each individual; and so we fed that for sixty days in succession,beginning with the preliminary period of ten days, then following sixty days in whichwe gave the borax.
MR. MANN: How much borax?
DR. WILEY: Seven and one-half grains a day. That was given intwo doses. Part of the time in one dose, and part of the time we divided it and gave3-3/4 grains at one time and 3-3/4 grains at another time.
MR. TOWNSEND: How did you give it?
DR. WILEY: In butter and in milk and in capsules. We tried allmethods.
MR. BARTLETT: Did you give any tomato catsup with any of thesemeats?
DR. WILEY: I don't think we did.
Now, I want to say this, because I regard it as important. Forfifteen or twenty days, or even longer in some cases, no visible effects were producedin what you would call "symptoms. " The young men had normal appetitesand performed their work without any discomfort, and had no complaints. After thattime they began to eat their ration with some little discomfort. They were underobligation to do it, but they often said: "I wish you could let this go; I don'twant it." Their appetites began to fail. At the end every one of their appetiteswas very badly affected, and some of them were unable any longer to eat the fullamount. Of course we never required anything that was impossible. They developedpersistent headaches in most cases, followed by general depression and debility.It was extremely well marked in every instance.
MR. KENNEDY: Did they get nauseated and want to refuse the foodwith the preservative in?
DR. WILEY: They were occasionally nauseated. We had every varietyof food that anybody commonly eats. We varied their menu every day.
MR. KENNEDY: Did the boys seem to get tired of it; did theywant to refuse the food?
DR. WILEY: That is the reason we had to resort to capsules,because the very moment he found it in the milk or in the butter he didn't want touse the butter. I would say that this is all set out in here. We were led to theuse of capsules because of the objections to which you refer. It may be all wrong,but that, of course, is a matter for you gentlemen to decide.
MR. ADA MSON: When they took the food, did it have some effecton the appetite?
DR. WILEY: It had a worse effect in the food when they knewit was in the food, because it became repugnant to them.
MR. KENNEDY: Don't you think this repugnance is nature's ownmethod of correcting these things I I remember that out in our town two fellows madea wager with another fellow that he could not eat a quail a day for thirty days insuccession. He did it, but it made him sick. That was because there was nothing wrongwith the quail, but he was taking it too consistently.
DR. WILEY: There is a great difference between a quail and borax;the latter is a drug.
MR. KENNEDY: A man's life was imperiled by his trying to winthat bet; he became very sick.
DR. WILEY: I will answer that by saying that it is the universalexperience of physicians that the drug habit grows; the more drug you take the moreyou need to produce the effect, and the less its effect; so that it is just the oppositeto the effect that you mention.
MR. TOWNSEND: Did you try the same experiment with benzoic acid?
DR. WILEY: Not for so long a time, but a shorter length of time.
MR. TOWNSEND: But on the same plan?
DR. WILEY: The same plan. That will be fully brought out inthe publication.
MR. WANGER: Was there, at the end of the period of the administrationof these preservatives, an immediate relief and restoration of the appetite, or wasthat a slow process?
DR. WILEY: Unfortunately the effects in some cases were verymuch prolonged. Some of the young men--the experiments ended in July, or in June,the end of the year--and some of the young men complained even through the summer,and it was late in the autumn before they recovered their full normal appetites.
MR. WANGER: That would furnish a strong presumption that itwas not the mental idea connected with the daily use of the preservatives that causedthe loss of appetite.
DR. WILEY: It might be that the mental attitude was a strongfactor, but when you get used to a thing after three or four days the mental attitudebecomes less important. And I got a beautiful illustration of that in our own investigation,because I realized that a very reasonable objection is made against experiments ofthis kind, against all pharmacological experiments, by reason of the mental attitudeof the patient, and I give full credit to the objection in the book, which you willsee. I discuss that fully and frankly, and give value to the objections.
But this strange thing happened when we came to salicylic acid.We had an almost new set of young men. We had a few that had come over from the boraxperiod, but one year of this kind of life is as much as a young man wants. They enlistedfor a year. So we had a new list. They must have had the same attitude toward salicylicacid that the first set had toward borax, and yet when we began to feed them salicylicacid there was an immediate improvement in the appetite; most of the young men seemedbetter, wanted more to eat, and it had exactly the opposite effect that borax had.Now, if it had been mental attitude in both cases the effect upon these men wouldhave been the same. But we had the opposite effect. So I think that is the most happyproof. It came instantly, unexpectedly; we were not looking for it. The effect ofthe mental attitude, which must be considered, does not have the great importancethat has been ascribed to it.
MR. TOWNSEND: These men made releases?
DR. WILEY: Yes, sir.
MR. TOWNSEND: How do you explain the effect of a drug--the factthat the constant use of it inures a person to it?
DR. WILEY: I think that is easily explained. As you get usedto the effect of a drug you never improve in health. The man who forms the opiumhabit takes more and more of the drug, but his health goes down all the time. Youcan tolerate more of the drug, but your health is going all the time, and it takesmore of the drug to produce a given effect.
MR. MANN: You say that in the experiments with borax the effectscontinued some time after the feeding of the borax to the young men, so that thereis a cumulative effect of borax upon the system?
DR. WILEY: I referred to that yesterday, and I will restateit. Professor Rost, of the imperial board of health of Berlin, whose work I havehere, criticized our work because we said that practically all of the borax was eradicatedfrom the body after ten days. He contends that a lot of it remains in there for alonger time and comes out in the waste material a little at a time for weeks andmonths, so that his testimony is very much more in favor of the cumulative effectsof those substances than our own.
MR. TOWNSEND: Have you tested for that?
DR. WILEY: We have made some tests on that during this lastwinter, but I have not as yet collated and studied the data.
MR. MANN: Does your report show that in your opinion the useof borax has a deleterious effect upon the organs of the body?
DR. WILEY: Of course you understand, Mr. Mann, the tests thatwe have made are not the same as those made upon animals fed for pharmacologicalexperiments, because after a given time the animals are killed and their organs areexamined, and the changes in the cells are studied by the microscope. We were precludedfrom doing that.
MR. MANN: Is that your conclusion?
DR. WILEY: My conclusion is that the cells must have been injured,but I had no demonstration of it, because I could not kill the young men and examinethe kidneys.
MR. MANN: Your judgment was that the borax was excreted fromthe body; it did not remain, but that the effects did remain? How else could theeffect remain excepting in some way affecting the organs of the body?
DR. WILEY: I think it must have affected the organs of the body.I think that is conclusive proof of it.
MR. ADAMSON: Is the process of resolving these foods into theiroriginal elements so difficult that scientists cannot furnish the people any practicalmethod of safely separating preservatives from food when they get ready to use them?
DR. WILEY: It is quite impractical to separate the whole ofany preservatives from food, though it probably can be done.
MR. MANN: Does it make any difference how borax is administered,whether administered by itself or administered in connection with foods, and is therea difference in the effect between the administration of a preservative in milk orin some kind of solid food, for instance?
DR. WILEY: The ideal way to administer substances of this kindwould be in solution in the food. But that has such practical difficulties that inalmost all pharmacological experiments like these which have been performed by thethousand in the world, the method which we finally adopted as the best has been adopted--thatis, the introduction of the substance into the stomach in the form of capsules, wherenature quickly mixes it entirely up with the contents of the stomach.
MR. MANN: Do not some scientists think that there is a differencein effect whether it is administered in one food or another?
DR. WILEY: That is the objection I have seen in scientific publicationsand in the public press urged against our work by Mr. H. H. Langdon, who has writtena great many letters condemnatory of the work. Mr. Langdon, as I have learned, isemployed by the borax company to do this work. He has called attention to that pointin the public press.
Many poetic descriptions of the poison squad were published,among the best of which are the following by S. W. Gillilan and Lew Dockstader:
THE SONG OF THE POISON SQUAD
(Respectfully Dedicated to the Department of Agriculture)
By S. W. GILLILAN
0 we're the merriest herd of hulks
that ever the world has seen;
We don't shy off from your rough
on rats or even from Paris green:
We're on the hunt for a toxic dope
That's certain to kill, sans fail.
But 'tis a tricky, elusive thing and
knows we are on its trail;
For all the things that could kill
we've downed in many a gruesome wad,
And still we're gaining a pound a day,
for we are the Pizen Squad.
On Prussic acid we break our fast;
we lunch on a morphine stew;
We dine with a matchhead consomme,
drink carbolic acid brew;
Corrosive sublimate tones us up
like laudanum. ketchup rare,
While tyro-toxicon condiments
are wholesome as mountain air.
Thus all the "deadlies" we double-dare
to put us beneath the sod;
We're death-immunes and we're proud as proud--
Hooray for the Pizen Squad!
As Sung by Lew Dockstader--
in His Minstrel Company
Washington, D. C., week of October 4, 1903
If ever you should visit the Smithsonian Institute,
Look out that Professor Wiley doesn't make you a recruit.
He's got a lot of fellows there that tell him how they feel,
They take a batch of poison every time they eat a meal.
For breakfast they get cyanide of liver, coffin shaped,
For dinner, undertaker's pie, all trimmed with crepe;
For supper, arsenic fritters, fried in appetizing shade,
And late at night they get a prussic acid lemonade.
They may get over it, but they'll never look the same.
That kind of a bill of fare would drive most men insane.
Next week he'll give them moth balls,
a LA Newburgh, or else plain.
They may get over it, but they'll never look the same.