London: A UK Opposition Labour Party Member of Parliament and shadow minister for women and equalities has called for a statutory inquiry into 21 Indian-origin women being given chapatis containing radioactive isotopes to combat iron deficiency as part of a medical research in the 1960s.
Taiwo Owatemi, who is the MP for Coventry in the West Midlands region of England, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, recently that she is deeply concerned for the women and families impacted by the study.
The women, identified through a general practitioner (GP) were given the chapatis containing Iron-59, an iron isotope, as part of a research trial in 1969 into iron deficiency in the city's South Asian population.
My foremost concern is for the women and the families of those who were experimented on in this study, said Owatemi.
"I will be calling for a debate on this as soon as possible after Parliament returns in September followed by a full Statutory Inquiry into how this was allowed to happen, and why the recommendation of the MRC [Medical Research Council] report to identify the women was never followed up so that they can share their stories, receive any support needed, and so that lessons are learnt," she said.
An MRC spokesperson said an independent inquiry, commissioned following a documentary on Channel 4 in 1995, had examined questions raised.
The study was carried out due to concerns of widespread anaemia among South Asian women and researchers suspected traditional South Asian diets were to blame. Chapatis containing Iron-59, an iron isotope with a gamma-beta emitter, were delivered to participants' homes. They would later be invited to a research facility in Oxfordshire to have their radiation levels assessed.
It was reported that the MRC said the study proved that “Asian women should take extra iron because the iron in the flour was insoluble”.
Radioactive research on Indian women
· Chapatis containing Iron-59, an iron isotope, was given to Indian women participants.
· After they ate it, their radiation level was measured, to judge how much iron was absorbed.
· The women were assumed to be recent immigrants with limited knowledge of English.
· The study was first investigated in a 1995 Channel 4 documentary.
· The BBC said researchers are looking for the women who part of the study.