Chemical weapons produced by Canada during the Second World War will be destroyed by the U.S. in September, The National Post reports.
The bombs, largely containing mustard gas, are located off the coast of Panama on San Jose Island, a location that has also served as a base for the reality TV program, Survivor.
The mustard gas was produced in wartime secrecy by Canadian scientists from the top-secret army base in Suffield, Alberta, that still serves today as a research center for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.
The mustard gas was used by both Canada and the U.S. in secret experiments on humans that have remained shrouded in mystery and controversy since the Second World War.
There are at least eight bombs remaining from the program. According to access to information documents obtained by The Ottawa Citizen, the Canadian defense department had alerted officials in Panama that the chemical weapons were still on the island and posed a potential threat to public safety.
The Panamanian government has asking the U.S. and Canadian governments to clean-up the site since the bombs were discovered in 2002.
They are what’s believed to be left of a stock of over 30,000 chemical bombs that were tested on the island in a bizarre program that was a combined operation between the U.S. and Canada. At least one report suggests that there could be more bombs, perhaps 3,000, remaining on the island, hidden in the jungle foliage.
That hasn’t stopped the island from developing its own tourism industry and being the site of a television show.
Canadian defense officials for decades denied any participation in the program but Canada was the chief supplier of the mustard gas and provided the pilots who dropped the bombs.
University of Alberta historian Susan L. Smith told The National Post, “This was an area where Canada indeed punched above its own weight.” Smith is the author of Toxic Exposures, which tells the story of Canada’s Second World War chemical weapons research and production.
Smith discovered that the San Jose Island experiments focused on how mustard gas affected various ethnicities — all of whom were affected by the mustard gas. Smith writes that the U.S. almost opted to use mustard gas against heavily fortified Japanese troops in the Pacific, but did not do so.
Panama solicited assistance from Canada in 2001 to get ride of the bombs but was refused. Yet the Canadian government then asked Panama to help with its campaign to eradicate land mines around the world.
The Panamanian government informed Canada that while it didn’t have any land mines to remove in Panama, it would like to get rid some chemical weapons that Canada had left there.