MOSCOW (AP) _ A team of U.S. experts arrived in Moscow on Wednesday to inspect American’s work areas, cars and homes for a chemical agent that the State Department says the KGB has been using to track some American diplomats.
The team, composed of experts from several U.S. government agencies and research institutes, flew into Moscow’s Sheremetevo Airport on a commercial flight. They declined to talk to reporters before driving away in a U.S. Embassy car.
The embassy scheduled two briefings with members of the team for Thursday morning. An official said the specialists would talk to embassy personnel at 10 a.m. and to reporters, businessmen and other members of the American community in Moscow at 11 a.m.
On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Charles E. Redman said in Washington that the team would ″systematically sample residential areas, work areas at the embassy, automobiles, and clothing to determine the extent and level of contamination.″
He said the team wanted to ″quantify the levels″ of the chemical that are present as a way of estimating how much exposure diplomats have had to it in addition to coming up with a decontamination plan.
″Our assumption is that there can be something harmful,″ said Redman, apparently referring to studies which have shown that the chemical, NPPD, is a mutagen which may have the potential of causing cancer.
The team is headed by Dr. Ernest McConnell, acting director of the toxicology research testing program for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a branch of the National Institutes of Health.
Toxicology is the science of the interrelationship between substances and disease, and McConnell is a toxicologist.
The other members are Edwin Tinsworth, deputy director of the office of toxic substances in the Environmental Protection Agency; Karen Hammerstrom, an EPA environmental protection specialist; and Jeff Lybarger of the Center for Disease Control.
The group left for Moscow by commercial aircraft following a meeting at the State Department, and was scheduled to arrive in Moscow on Wednesday.
Redman said that since studies to determine whether the chemical NPPD is harmful will take some time, it was only prudent in the meantime to ″take decontamination measures regardless of what we know at the present time.″
He said the U.S. diplomats and other Americans exposed to the chemical want to take steps now to be decontaminated even though there is no direct proof at this time that the chemical causes cancer.
During the team’s visit, expected to last about a week, it was to inform U.S. diplomats on how to get rid of the invisible chemical substance that apparently has been placed on such objects as door knobs and steering wheels so the KGB could keep track of contact between U.S. diplomats and Soviet citizens, including dissidents.
The White House said the team had been issued visas by the Soviet Union.