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Ellis Island
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Quick Facts

    • Typhoid Mary lived in isolation on North Brother Island in New York State for more than 20 years.
    • Animal research has been conducted on Plum Island New York State for decades.
    • A leprosy colony existed on Molokai Island in Hawaii.
    • The "Pill" was introduced in experimental phase on residents of Puerto Rico.

Rabbit Island, Japan--Chemical Weapons

Rabbit Island, located in the Inland Japan Sea, was a chemical warfare production site for the Imperial Japanese Army between 1929 and 1945. Mustard gas, phosgene and other poison gases were manufactured on the island. The gas was shipped to Kokura, Japan for installation into artillery shells and eventual use in China. Rabbit island, now a tourist attraction due largely to the thousands of wild rabbits that live there, was a secret facility until 1946 when allies discovered it and dumped tons of remaining chemicals into the surrounding sea.

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For More Info: Environmental Graffiti

Gruinard Island, United Kingdom -- Anthrax

Located off the coast of Scotland, Gruinard Island was deemed unfit for humans for nearly 50 years. During World War 2, the British conducted anthrax research there. Most notably, researchers subjected a flock of sheep to anthrax and within three days the sheep died. After the war, the island was so contaminated that the government forbade anyone to travel there. Recently, the island was scrubbed of anthrax. However, an archeologist questioned whether this is true since 100 year-old anthrax spores were recently discovered to be alive.

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For More Info: BBC

Moloka'i Island, Hawaii -- Leprosy

Kalaupapa, located on the Hawaiian Island of Moloka'i, was the site of a leper colony from 1865 until 1969. Known as Hansen's Disease, leprosy is a disfiguring disease and attempts to protect the public led to the formation of the settlements on an isolated peninsula. Residents of the settlement paid a high personal price for their isolation. The discovery of antibiotics in 1949 provided a real cure. However, victims of Hansen's Disease still receive treatment at Kalaupapa and Honolulu.

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For More Info: Moloka_i (novel)

NY Times: The last witnesses of Hawaii's leper colony


Shark Island, Namibia -- Eugenics

Shark Island, located off the coast of Namibia, housed a German concentration camp between 1904-1908 for rebellious Herero men, women and children. Skulls of the dead prisoners were sent to Germany for eugenics studies. Efforts to return the skulls to the island for burial are underway.

For More Info: New York Times | The Journal | UN Whitaker Report on Genocide

Reims Island, Germany -- Biological Weapons

Located off the coast of Germany (in former East Germany), Reims Island has been the site of animal research for over 100 years. During World War 2, the Nazis used the site for biological weapons research. After the war, the equipment was sent to the Soviet Union as part of the war reparations yet research continued. After German reunification, the facilities became the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute and the site of five research institutes of immunology, infectology, molecular biology, novel and emerging infectious diseases and diagnostic virology.

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For More Info: Friedrick Loeffler Institut

North Brother Island, New York State -- Typhoid

North Brother Island, which lies in the East River in New York City, was the “home” to Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary. An Irish immigrant and cook, Mary was suspected of infecting numerous people with typhoid. Authorities sent her to the North Brother Island to live in relative isolation until her death in 1937.

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For More Info:
"Van Detta, Jeffrey G., (1999).`Typhoid Mary' Meets the ADA: A Case Study of the `Direct Threat' Standard Under the Americans With Disabilities Act., Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p849, 110p.


"Puerto Rico -- “The Pill”

Puerto Rico in 1956 was the site of the first large-scale testing of "The Pill" . Local women, who were not informed that they were participating in a clinical trial, were given strong doses of progesterone. Seventeen percent of the women reported serious side-effects and three women died. Despite these problems, the organizers of the trial called it a success and never followed up with the complaints.

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PBS Film 'The Pill'

Plum Island – NY Animal Research?

Public information about this remote island off the eastern tip of Long Island is scant. However, we do know that the Department of Homeland Security runs the place, animal research is conducted there, and no one except government officials are allowed near it—that includes the docks where secret government ferries bring scientist back and forth to the island. Prior to being an animal research facility, Plum Island housed military forces to protect Long Island Sound during World War 1 and World War 2.

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CBS News: Plumbing the mysteries of Plum Island