Radioactive chapatis- Coventry MP calls for inquiry - The Coventry Observer

Radioactive chapatis- Coventry MP calls for inquiry

Coventry Editorial 30th Aug, 2023 Updated: 30th Aug, 2023   0

COVENTRY researchers are looking for Punjabi women who were given chapatis containing radioactive isotopes in a ‘horrifying’ 1969 experiment.

And after the study was brought back to light on social media recently, Coventry North West MP Taiwo Owatemi said she would be calling for a full inquiry into what happened.

In total, 21 city women identified through a Coventry GP were brought chapatis for a fortnight, each one containing iron 59, an isotope with a gamma/beta emitter, as part of a trial looking into anaemia in South Asian diets.

Ms Owatemi said the women were taken to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell to measure the radiation as a way to gauge how much iron had been absorbed.

A researcher from the University of Warwick has been seeking to identify the women in the experiment.

Ms Owatemi said from what she understood, after speaking with the researcher and reading the reports, consent was not sought and at the time of taking part in the experiment the women were not given sufficient information.

Revelations about the study came to light in the 1995 Channel 4 documentary ‘Deadly Experiments’ and findings were recently brought back into the public domain by a thread on X by Dr Louise Raw.

The documentary prompted an independent inquiry published in 1998.

The Medical Research Council (MRC), which funded the study, said the inquiry recognised research practice, ethics and regulation had ‘moved on significantly’ since the studies were originally undertaken.

Since then, new guidance with additional improvements had been made.

Ms Owatemi said there was ‘deep worry amongst the Coventry South Asian community’ regarding the study and she would be calling for a debate on the issue, followed by a full Statutory Inquiry, when Parliament returned in September.

In a joint statement, council leader Coun George Duggins and the University of Warwick’s vice chancellor and president, Prof Stuart Croft, said it was evident further dialogue was necessary, especially to amplify the voices of the affected women.

“The revelations to date mark just the initial phase of this investigation.

“Academic research, especially when it concerns people directly impacted by past policies, is meticulous and time-consuming.”

An MRC spokesperson said it understood concerns about the study and they would be contacting Ms Owatemi to ensure questions could be answered.

“Public and patient involvement, ethical practice and trust, transparency, accountability and public challenge were crucial to its work.”

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