1965–1966: Dioxin Experiments

1965–1966: Dr. Kligman conducted dioxin experiments on 70 prisoners at Holmesburg on behalf of Dow Chemicals. Dioxin has proved fatal in laboratory animals given small doses. These experiments were uncovered in 1980 at EPA hearings. (NY Times, 1983) In testing dioxin, a component of Agent Orange, Kligman went beyond Dow Chemical’s instructions. The Times reported that Kligman subjected 10 inmates to 7,500 micrograms of the toxic chemical — 468 times as much as Dow had requested. He reported that “Eight of the 10 subjects showed acne lesions. . . In three instances, the lesions progressed to inflammatory pustules and pules. These lesions lasted for four to seven months, since no effort was made to speed healing by active treatment.” EPA sought the identity of the 70 men, but Kligman refused to cooperate, claiming no records of the prisoners’ identities were kept.

In 2006, in response to a New York Times reporter’s inquiry about prisoner research, Kligman stated: “My view is that shutting the prison experiments down was a big mistake. . . I’m on the medical ethics committee at Penn, and I still don’t see there having been anything wrong with what we were doing.” “Nothing wrong” from his perspective inasmuch his experiments generated enormous profits from his patent of Retin-A, an anti-acne cream; and from the hundreds of experiments he performed on prisoners for Johnson & Johnson, Dow Chemical, the U.S. Army and his own corporation, Ivy Research. (Prison Legal News, 2008)

The University of Pennsylvania website praises Dr. Kligman as: “an innovative, captivating teacher… inspired generations of researchers and cliniciansa giant in the field…”