Volume 91 Issue 13 | p. 4 | Letters
Issue Date: April 1, 2013

‘Yellow Rain’ Lessons Learned

Department: Letters

Thanks to C&EN for providing a freely searchable archive and display of abstracts (C&EN, Jan. 28, page 3). Searching for “yellow rain” in Wikipedia provides an update to Lois Ember’s award-winning article: “An episode of mass pollen release from bees in 2002 in Sangrampur, India, prompted unfounded fears of a chemical weapons attack, although this was in fact due to a mass migration of giant Asian honeybees. This event revived memories of what New Scientist described as ‘cold war paranoia,’ and the article noted that the Wall Street Journal had covered these 1980s yellow rain allegations in particular detail. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal continues to assert that the Soviet Union used yellow rain as a chemical weapon in the 1980s and in 2003 accused Matthew Meselson of ‘excusing away evidence of Soviet violations.’

“In the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Wall Street Journal alleged that Saddam Hussein possessed a chemical weapon called ‘yellow rain.’ The Iraqis appear to have investigated trichothecene mycotoxins in 1990, but only purified a total of 20 mL of the agent from fungal cultures and did not manage to scale up the purification or produce any weapons containing these compounds” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_rain).

Dana L. Roth
Pasadena, Calif.

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