Long-Term Health Effects of Participation in Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense)


Report at a Glance

  • Response to 15 February 2008 Letter from Congressmen Mike Thompson and Dennis Rehberg (PDF)

The Shipboard Hazard and Defense Project (SHAD) was a series of tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense during the 1960s to determine how well service members aboard military ships could detect and respond to chemical and biological attacks. Although many of the roughly 5,500 veterans who took part were aware of the tests, some were involved without their knowledge.

The report, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, finds no clear evidence that specific long-term health effects are associated with participation in Project SHAD.  The IOM study compared the health of veterans who participated in SHAD with the health of a similar group of veterans who did not  participate.  Although more SHAD veterans have died of heart disease, overall mortality rates among both groups of veterans were similar.  Moreover, the differences in the rates of medical symptoms and conditions experienced by each group were generally slight, and the study authors found no consistent, specific patterns of ill health among SHAD veterans. 

Because of limitations in the study response rates and the size of the study, the report's  findings should not be misconstrued as clear evidence that there are no possible long-term health effects related to SHAD involvement.  Also, there have been very few hypotheses about specific health problems that could be related to the materials used in the SHAD tests to serve as a starting point for further investigation.

The full reports on the toxicological/biological agents prepared for the National Academies by The Center for Research Information, Inc. are available under Other Report Resources. Executive summaries of these reports are included as Appendix A in the report.

The IOM does not endorse the conclusions and recommendations of these commissioned works.  The responsibility for the content of these technical reports rests with the authors.