Almost as soon as any type of aircraft becomes widely available, it seems, people start to spray stuff out of it – for benign or malicious purposes.
Toward the end of WWI, Germany introduced the world to airborne chemical assault by dropping gas balloons from warplanes.
In the ’50s, after a series of experiments in which water was dumped onto California wildfires from beer kegs mounted on small planes, crop dusting planes owned by Nolta’s Willows’ Flying Service were converted into fire-dousing tankers. These gradually evolved into the sophisticated aerial firefighting tankers we see today.
So the question must be asked: Could any of the many government and corporate operations that involve aerial dumping or spraying account for the chemtrail phenomenon? Let’s start with a prime suspect…
A U.S. Air Force document on contrails states that the only USAF activities which involve the intentional spraying of chemical compounds from aircraft in the U.S. are pest control, weed control and fire suppression (including the use of oil dispersants on oil spills, which are a fire hazard). (1)
This is true in a technical sense; so far as we know, the Air Force doesn’t spray any other chemicals on American soil. But the USAF (and other armed forces around the world) do spray aluminum-coated polymer “chaff” as an anti-radar measure.
Military chaff dispersal is the closest thing I have found to “chemtrail spraying”, and some chemtrail-watchers accept it as such (others, like Ken Adachi of Educate Yourself.org, say it’s just a cover story for what the New World Order perps are really spraying – whatever that may be).
On the surface, chaff looks like a close match for the chemtrail phenomenon: It involves aluminum, it involves polymers, it is performed at high altitudes by military jets, and it is semi-secret.
What is it?
Chaff was first used by the British in 1942. They dropped strips of paper backed with aluminum foil from RAF planes to produce radar returns that would confuse the Luftwaffe. Soon, the German and U.S. air forces were using small aluminum strips or wires for the same purpose (one memorabilia collector has posted photos of a roll of this old-school chaff). (2)
Today, even with stealth technology, most of the world’s air forces still use chaff to disguise troop movements and missiles, evade enemy aircraft and missiles, and send distress signals.
As far as chemtrails are concerned, however, the chaff used in military training exercises is the only kind that comes into play. Combat chaff is not approved for use in the U.S. because it interferes with civilian radar.
The most commonly used “training” chaff consists of aluminum-coated fiberglass or silica fibers made as small and lightweight as possible. The strands look like tiny, shiny hairs. Each strand (dipole) is between 17.8 and 25.4 microns in diameter, much thinner than the average human hair, and less than an inch long,
The dipoles have a chemical slip coating to prevent clumping, made up mostly of stearic acid. There are also trace metals in chaff.
Some warn that chaff contains lead or naphtha, but this is not true. Naphtha is used in part of the chemical-coating process, but removed at a later stage. Certain kinds of tinfoil chaff used to have a lead-based coating designed to increase flutter. This technique has not been used since the early ’80s. (3)
Chaff (whether combat or training) is not sprayed like exhaust nor dumped like fuel. Typically, it is spread by motor ejection, mechanical ejection or pyrotechnic ejection. In motor ejection, a motor located on the aircraft feeds large rolls of uncut chaff through cutters at varying speeds to produce either bursts of chaff or a steady stream of it (“saturation chaff”). Mechanical ejection releases little cardboard boxes packed with chaff, which burst open upon release from the aircraft. Pyrotechnic ejection is the most popular method. It uses hot gases generated by an explosive impulse cartridge to push a small plastic piston along a chaff-filled tube. The chaff fibers are released while the tube stays on the aircraft.
Depending on the type of chaff, the method of dispersal and the number of aircraft, chaff releases can disperse billions of fibers in a 10-minute period. (3)
Now that we have some idea of what chaff is, let’s look at two of the most popular chaff-as-chemtrails stories.
Dutch ufologist John Kuhles seems to have been the first chemtrail-watcher to upload a video (the one below), and most of the later videos are just copies or variations of that one.
The German-to-English translations on these videos are dodgy (if not outright fraudulent), so it’s impossible to know precisely what’s being said unless you’re fluent in German. The gist of the videos is easy enough to grasp, though: A German meteorologist named Karsten Brandt was puzzled by large contrail-like clouds that twice appeared on meteorological radar (in 2005 and 2006), investigated the matter, and became upset when the German Army admitted it was spraying polymer chaff to disrupt radar returns (“chemtrails”). Brandt decided to file charges against the German military and/or persons unknown for manipulating the weather (illegal in that country), and has made allegations (not supported by any evidence in the news segment) that military officials have falsified satellite imagery by digitally removing “chemtrails”. Johannes Remmel of the German “Greens” party expresses concern about chaff pollution, and wants to see transparency in military spraying operations.
Closer examination of videos on which the original audio can be heard reveals that Brandt, Remmel, the news anchor and the reporter do not use actually use the term “chemtrail” at any point. Why would they? Military chaff is about 40% metal and 60% silica by weight. (3)
In fact, “chemtrail” doesn’t appear once in the news segment. Rather, they use the German word for military chaff, duppel. It’s clear that whoever provided the subtitles for these videos (John Kuhles?) wants us to believe the German air force is spraying chemtrails instead of duppel.
Many chemtrail researchers impressed by Brandt’s “chemtrail” work would be sorely disappointed to learn he is a dedicated “greenie”, and the author of five books on climate change. Furthermore, in a February 2006 Q&A about the “phantom clouds” that appeared on German meteorological radar on July 19, 2005, Brandt is openly doubtful of chemtrail theories. Here’s what he had to say to the question, “Are these ‘chemtrails’?”:
“On different Internet pages [there] is passionate/vehement discussion that aircraft spray chemical(s) either to counteract the ozone hole or for the U.S. (who else…) to work to secure the world’s weather. This happens – according to the followers of this conspiracy theory – not only on a test basis from time to time, but regularly, around the world and especially over Germany. The spray chemicals leave whitish-gray streaks in the sky. But these are not normal contrails, the ‘chemtrails’ look different and also behave very differently. The beauty of this conspiracy theory: Anyone can see the streaks, anyone can feel threatened, but the (normal) citizen can’t handle or examine them. On Internet pages photos of various streaks are shown, the strange patterns they leave in the sky. For lay people on first sight it is already strange that contrails stay in the sky for hours one day, but the next day resolve within minutes. But this ‘phenomenon’ is very simple and easy to explain with the humidity and [air] current. Of course we also cannot safely exclude that an aircraft sprayed chemicals. This happens regularly, but as to the extent claimed by the conspiracy theorists, we can exclude that with common sense: For such a comprehensive world conspiracy, not just hundreds, [but] thousands [of] U.S. pilots would have to be dedicated/inaugurated, and also scientists, German authorities, etc., etc.
How high is the probability that there are no leaks with such a [large] number of people? Exactly.”
(Note: This is my rendering of a Bing translation. You can find the literal translation below the source notes at the end of this post.)
Karsten mentioned that the German Center for Aerospace and the German Army‘s Geoinformation Office extensively studied the mystery clouds, and published their results in a 2005 German Meteorological Society newsletter. You can read that newsletter (PDF) if you know German or have a lot of patience. The radar cloud portion is titled “Unbekannte Flugobjekte im RADAR-Bild?” (“UFOs in the Radar Image?”). The authors make it clear they’re not talking about “flying saucers”, but the radar echoes observed on July 19, 2005, that did not correspond to any known meteorological phenomena.
They offer five possible explanations for the echoes, including duppel, and conclude that further inquiries should be made to determine if experiments involving reflective particles are being conducted. This newsletter, if translated correctly, could be of more value to chemtrail researchers and geoengineering critics than any crappily-subtitled YouTube video.
But there’s a snag: Other meteorologists soon identified the July 19 anomaly as an example of what German weather scientists refer to as the “German Pancake”. It’s a type of radar error, in this case caused by the newly introduced kilometer-scale numerical weather prediction system (LMK). I don’t know if the other mystery clouds Brandt mentioned were chaff or not, but the one that first caught his attention was a pancake. (4)
I don’t know what became of Brandt’s chaff lawsuit.
1. Because military pilots, as part of their training, must learn how to mask their planes by creating false radar images. Air Force Colonel Gerald Pease has explained that chaff is difficult to use effectively; it takes a lot of practice.
2. Because the military is testing their own radar systems.
3. Because it is used in combat training exercises.
Remember, this is not combat-grade chaff, but lighter and smaller “training” chaff.
1977: U.S Navy studies conducted at Chesapeake Bay (where a detachment of the U.S. Naval Research Lab is located ) exposed six varieties of marine life to levels of chaff up to a hundred times the average level. No toxic effects were observed. (6)
1997: The U.S. Air Force released the results of a study, “Environmental Effects of Self-Protection Chaff and Flares”, indicating that effects on wildlife were negligible. (PDF)
1998-1999: A major Naval Research Laboratories study was undertaken. Simultaneously, the General Accounting Office conducted its own independent study. (Ironically, it was Senator Harry Reid of Nevada who directed the GAO to conduct its own investigation into chaff use, and how thoroughly its effects on the environment had been studied by the military. Reid is generally despised by the conspiracy community for what a 2010 article reposted at Infowars.com describes as his “hostile takeover of agriculture”, the FDA Food Modernization Act.
2000: A Navy study conducted at Chesapeake Beach found no evidence that 25 years of chaff releases in the area had resulted in a significant increase in sediment or soil aluminum concentrations (Wilson et al., 2000).
2001: An article published in Navy Medicine noted that chaff strands are too large to be inhaled into the lungs, and would probably just be swallowed or expelled. Workers in the fiberglass industry are not at increased risk of death from fiber inhalation. When aluminum is ingested, 99% of it is expelled. The authors admit, though, that “there is no definitive evidence from the epidemiological literature that chaff exposure is not harmful…” (6)
2005: A review of chaff studies conducted for the Goose Bay Office of the Department of National Defense by the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Soil Science concluded that while some environmental effects are still unknown, “it is highly unlikely that chaff releases will have any impact on ecosystem functioning or human health because concentrations of suspended chaff are well below known toxic thresholds.”
As for the potential hazards of inhaling or ingesting chaff, the authors point out that the fibers are too large to pass naturally through the nose or mouth. (8) However, the Navy Medicine article noted that degraded fibers may be inhaled or ingested and that further study should be done. (6)
Some chemtrail and conspiracy researchers, like Rima Laibow tentatively link the bizarre condition known as Morgellons to military chaff, but as we’ll see in later posts, the fibrous materials that sprout from the skin of Morgellons sufferers bear little, if any, resemblance to military chaff.
Does the aluminum show up in ground and water testing? Could chaff account for elevated aluminum levels reportedly found in environmental samples?
Some chaff can end up in unfiltered drinking water, of course, and this is noted in the Navy Medicine article. (6)
Not that it really matters. Aluminum is the third most abundant element in our environment, after silicon and oxygen, so it turns up naturally in water, soil and food (and unnaturally thanks to industry, processing, packaging, etc.). The good news is that when aluminum is ingested, less than 1% is absorbed by our gastrointestinal tracts, and the other 99% is harmlessly expelled. (Jouhanneau et al. 1997)
The isolated test results that indicate extremely high levels of aluminum and other metals in water and soil, like the ones depicted in What in the World Are They Spraying?, are usually flawed or misinterpreted, as we will see in later posts. In the U.S. and Canada, routine soil and water tests conducted by both government and independent environmental agencies have not been finding unusual amounts of aluminum.
The trace metals in chaff are present in such miniscule amounts as to be insignificant. The 2005 review of chaff studies states that “the amount of chaff needed to raise environmental concentrations of these metals above background levels far exceeds the number than can be realistically deposited in a given area of land or body of water.” (8)
The 2000 Navy study at Chesapeake Beach did not find elevated amounts of aluminum in the soil, despite heavy use of chaff in the area over a 25-year period (Wilson et al., 2000). Currently, area residents are far more concerned about phosphorous contamination from fertilizers than they are about chaff.
But no one wants to rely solely on military studies, so let’s look at a more recent, non-military study involving chaff and the soil. In 2005, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study was conducted in southwestern Arizona to determine if the heavy use of chaff in the area could be a risk to the endangered antelope (Sonoran pronghorn). The researchers studied Sonoran pronghorn exposure to chaff at five sites: the Barry M. Goldwater Range, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe National Monument and Luke Air Force Range, using the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge as a control site. Chaff was found more frequently at all the other sites than at Kofa, but researchers noted the difference was not statistically significant, and “the increased chaff did not appear to influence mean aluminum concentrations in soil or sediment, as aluminum concentrations were within Arizona background concentrations.”
The researchers encouraged further testing in the region, but concluded that exposure to aluminum or other metals in chaff would not cause adverse effects even to the vulnerable Sonoran pronghorn. (9)
(By the way, if you’re an American conspiracy researcher who is too busy worrying about what the New World Order is doing to pay any attention to the Sonoran pronghorn, maybe you should.)
1. USAF document on contrails (PDF)
2. Wikipedia entry for chaff (countermeasure). Retrieved July 5, 2012.
3. Draft USAF document “Environmental Assessment: Transforming the 49th Fighter Wing’s Combat Capability” (2006), Appendix B, “The Characteristics of Chaff”.
4. Hessler et al. 2006, Hengstebeck et al. 2010
5. “The Ingestion of Fiberglass chaff by cattle” (1972). Canada Department of Agriculture, Health of Animals Branch. Prepared for the Director of Electronic Warfare, Canadian Forces Headquarters.
6. “Human and environmental health issues related to use of radio frequency chaff” by Darryl P. Arfsten et al. Navy Medicine, Volume 92, No. 5 (September-October 2001)
7. 1998 General Accounting Office report “Environmental Protection: DoD Management Issues Related to Chaff” (PDF)
8. “Environmental Effects of Radio Frequency (RF) Chaff Released during Military Training Exercises: A Review of the Literature” by Richard E. Farrell and Steven D. Siciliano.
9. “Effects of Military Aircraft Chaff on Water Sources Available to Sonoran Pronghorn” (2005) by
Carrie Marr and Anthony L. Velasco (PDF)
Word-for-word Bing translation of Brandt’s answer to “Sind das „Chemtrails“?” on Donner Wetter:
“On different Internet pages is passionate/vehement discussed that aircraft chemicals spray to thus optional the ozone hole counter to work or the USA (who else…) the weather world to secure. This happens – after view the trailer this conspiracy theory – not only test basis from time to time, but regularly around the world and especially over/about Germany. The atomized/vaporized chemicals you want to most to the sky white-grayish stripes/streaks leave. It if is but not to normal contrail, the ‘chemtrails’ see very different and would is also behave differently. The beautiful at this conspiracy theory: Each/anyone can the stripes/streaks see, each/anyone can is threatened feel, but no (normal) citizens can they handle or examine. On the Internet pages be photos various stripes/streaks shown, the strange pattern most sky leave. For the lay people is it on the first sight view already strange that is contrails at one day for hours most sky keep next day but within minutes to resolve. But this ‘phenomenon’ are with the humidity and the flow/current very much light/simple and easy to explain. Of course we can also not with last security/safety exclude that an aircraft chemicals sprayed. But this happens regularly and the to the extent of as to the conspiracy theorists claims happen you can with healthy common sense exclude: For such a comprehensive world conspiracy would have to not just hundreds, thousands U.S. pilots be dedicated/inaugurated, but also scientists, German authorities, etc., etc. How high is the probablity that at one such number of people of people no leaking instead are?”