Chemical

 
 

What is Chemical Warfare?

Chemical warfare is different from the use of conventional weapons or nuclear weapons because the destructive effects of chemical weapons are not primarily due to any explosive force. The offensive use of living organisms (such as anthrax) is considered biological warfare rather than chemical warfare; however, the use of nonliving toxic products produced by living organisms (e.g. toxins such as botulinum toxin, ricin, and saxitoxin) is considered chemical warfare under the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Under this Convention, any toxic chemical, regardless of its origin, is considered a chemical weapon unless it is used for purposes that are not prohibited (an important legal definition known as the General Purpose Criterion).

Chemical Symbol

About 70 different chemicals have been used or stockpiled as chemical warfare agents during the 20th century and the 21st century. These agents may be in liquid, gas or solid form. Liquid agents are generally designed to evaporate quickly; such liquids are said to be volatile or have a high vapor pressure. Many chemical agents are made volatile so they can be dispersed over a large region quickly. Chemical weapons are classified as weapons of mass destruction by the United Nations, and their production and stockpiling was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.

For many terrorist organizations, chemical weapons might be considered an ideal choice for a mode of attack, if they are available: they are cheap, relatively accessible, and easy to transport. A skilled chemist can readily synthesize most chemical agents if the precursors are available.

Chemical warfare agents

Chemical weapons are inert agents that come in four categories: choking, blister, blood and nerve. The agents are organized into several categories according to the manner in which they affect the human body. The names and number of categories varies slightly from source to source, but in general, types of chemical warfare agents are as follows:


Classes of chemical weapon agents
Class of agent Agent Names Mode of Action Signs and Symptoms Rate of action Persistency
Nerve Inactivates enzyme acetylcholinesterase, preventing the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the victim's synapses and causing both muscarinic and nicotinic effects
  • Miosis (pinpoint pupils)
  • Blurred/dim vision
  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Copious secretions/sweating
  • Muscle twitching/fasciculations
  • Dyspnea
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vapors: seconds to minutes;
  • Skin: 2 to 18 hours
VX is persistent and a contact hazard; other agents are non-persistent and present mostly inhalation hazards.
Asphyxiant/Blood
  • Possible cherry-red skin
  • Possible cyanosis
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Patients may gasp for air
  • Seizures prior to death
  • Metabolic acidosis
Immediate onset Non-persistent and an inhalation hazard.
Vesicant/Blister Agents are acid-forming compounds that damages skin and respiratory system, resulting burns and respiratory problems.
  • Mustards: Vapors: 4 to 6 hours, eyes and lungs affected more rapidly; Skin: 2 to 48 hours
  • Lewisite: Immediate
Persistent and a contact hazard.
Choking/Pulmonary Similar mechanism to blister agents in that the compounds are acids or acid-forming, but action is more pronounced in respiratory system, flooding it and resulting in suffocation; survivors often suffer chronic breathing problems.
  • Airway irritation
  • Eye and skin irritation
  • Dyspnea, cough
  • Sore throat
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Bronchospasm
Immediate to 3 hours Non-persistent and an inhalation hazard.
Lachrymatory agent Causes severe stinging of the eyes and temporary blindness. Powerful eye irritation Immediate Non-persistent and an inhalation hazard.
Incapacitating Causes atropine-like inhibition of acetylcholine in subject. Causes peripheral nervous system effects that are the opposite of those seen in nerve agent poisoning.
  • Inhaled: 30 minutes to 20 hours;
  • Skin: Up to 36 hours after skin exposure to BZ. Duration is typically 72 to 96 hours.
Extremely persistent in soil and water and on most surfaces; contact hazard.
Cytotoxic proteins

Non-living biological proteins, such as:

Inhibit protein synthesis 4-24 hours; see symptoms. Exposure by inhalation or injection causes more pronounced signs and symptoms than exposure by ingestion Slight; agents degrade quickly in environment

Chart taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_warfare

There are other chemicals used militarily that are not scheduled by the Chemical Weapons Convention, and thus are not controlled under the CWC treaties. These include:

  • Defoliants that destroy vegetation, but are not immediately toxic to human beings. Some batches of Agent Orange, for instance, used by the United States in Vietnam, contained dioxins as manufacturing impurities. Dioxins, rather than Agent Orange itself, have long-term cancer effects and for causing genetic damage leading to serious birth deformities.
  • Incendiary or explosive chemicals (such as napalm, extensively used by the United States in Vietnam, or dynamite) because their destructive effects are primarily due to fire or explosive force, and not direct chemical action.
  • Viruses, bacteria, or other organisms. Their use is classified as biological warfare. Toxins produced by living organisms are considered chemical weapons, although the boundary is blurry. Toxins are covered by the Biological Weapons Convention.

Delivery

The most important factor in the effectiveness of chemical weapons is the efficiency of its delivery, or dissemination, to a target. The most common techniques include munitions (such as bombs, projectiles, warheads) that allow dissemination at a distance and spray tanks which disseminate from low-flying aircraft. Developments in the techniques of filling and storage of munitions have also been important.

Dispersion

Dispersion is placing the chemical agent upon or adjacent to a target immediately before dissemination, so that the material is most efficiently used. Dispersion is the simplest technique of delivering an agent to its target. The most common techniques are munitions, bombs, projectiles, spray tanks and warheads.

Thermal dissemination

Thermal dissemination is the use of explosives or pyrotechnics to deliver chemical agents. This technique, developed in the 1920s, was a major improvement over earlier dispersal techniques, in that it allowed significant quantities of an agent to be disseminated over a considerable distance. Thermal dissemination remains the principal method of disseminating chemical agents today. Most thermal dissemination devices consist of a bomb or projectile shell that contains a chemical agent and a central "burster" charge; when the burster detonates, the agent is expelled laterally.

Aerodynamic dissemination

Aerodynamic dissemination is the non-explosive delivery of a chemical agent from an aircraft, allowing aerodynamic stress to disseminate the agent. This technique is the most recent major development in chemical agent dissemination, originating in the mid-1960s.

 

Chemical weapon proliferation

Despite numerous efforts to reduce or eliminate them, some nations continue to research and/or stockpile chemical warfare agents. To the right is a summary of the nations that have either declared weapon stockpiles or are suspected of secretly stockpiling or possessing CW research programs. Notable examples include United States and Russia.

Nation CW Possession Signed CWC Ratified CWC
Albania Known January 14, 1993 May 11, 1994
Burma (Myanmar) Possible January 13, 1993 No
the People's Republic of China Probable January 13, 1993 April 4, 1997
Egypt Probable No No
France Probable January 13, 1993 March 2, 1995
India Known January 14, 1993 September 3, 1996
Iran Known January 13, 1993 November 3, 1997
Israel Probable January 13, 1993 No
Japan Probable January 13, 1993 September 15, 1995
Libya Known No January 6, 2004
(acceded)
North Korea Known No No
Pakistan Probable January 13, 1993 October 28, 1997
Russia Known January 13, 1993 November 5, 1997
Serbia
and Montenegro
Probable No April 20, 2000
(acceded)
Sudan Possible No May 24, 1999
(acceded)
Syria Known No No
Taiwan Possible n/a n/a
United States Known January 13, 1993 April 25, 1997
Vietnam Probable January 13, 1993 September 30, 1998

 

Protection

During a Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical emergency all reliable sources say to find a room with as few doors and windows as possible.  This room should be already stocked with emergency supplies such as water, food, batteries, flashlights, bedding, emergency radios, and plastic sheeting and duct tape for sealing the windows and doors.  If it is a Nuclear or radiological emergency, the room should be low in the building.  If it is Chemical emergency, they say the higher the room in the building the better. 

If you are above ground without a sufficient place built to protect you from radiation, the radioactive fallout will leave its effects on persons tens and even hundreds of miles away from the site of the weapon detonation and can result in slow and agonizing death over a period of time for those affected.

Our N.B.C. Fallout Shelter's will protect you and your loved ones from all Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical emergencies, in one place, at a moment’s notice.  Not to mention that the shelter offers further protection as a storm shelter or safe room. 
Our NBC Fallout Shelters = Peace of Mind.

For more information on
NBC Emergencies please visit:
http://emergency.cdc.gov/
http://www.fas.org/index.html
http://www.cdi.org
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_warfare

 
 

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