Chemical Weapons

Irene Tiliacos

What are Chemical Weapons?

Chemical Weapons are weapons containing solid, liquid, or gaseous substance that is used to produce a negative effect on a living organism. Oh humans they can cause death or serious injury.

Types of Chemical Agents

Attacks can be carried out using a variety of chemical agents.

Blister Agents- Cause blisters, burns, and other various types of tissue damage. Mustard and lewisite are two common blister agents. Blister agents do not clear out upon hitting fresh air. They are also delayed in reaction, with symptoms increasing overtime. It can sometimes 12-18 hours to reach the full effect.

Blood Agents- Blood agents are absorbed through the blood stream and deny oxygen to blood vessels. Hydrogen cyanide is an example of a blood agent. Like blister agents, symptoms of reaction to blood agents increase in severity overtime. Once it reaches its full effect, an individual affected by a blood agent will convulse, lose consciousness, and die.

Choking Agents- Choking agents attack the lungs. These agents will cause the lungs to fill with fluid, therefore making the individual affected unable to breathe. The two most common choking agents include phosgene and chlorine.

Nerve Agents- Nerve agents affect the central nervous system. These agents take effect within seconds of exposure. Someone exposed to nerve agents will experience convulsions, dilated pupils, runny nose, and the inability to breathe normally. This is the quickest, most deadly chemical agent there is. Sarin is an example of a nerve agent.

Riot Control Agents- Riot control agents cause respiratory distress and tearing in the eyes. Unlike most chemical agents, riot control agents are designed not to kill, but to temporarily disable someone. They cause intense pain. Common riot control agents are tear gas and pepper spray. Full effect from riot control agents can come on between the initial exposure up until 18 hours post exposure.
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What are the Main Targets of Chemical Weapons?

Chemical weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction. With that being said, typically chemical weapons will be targeted towards masses of people. It could be in a town square, a mall, a football game, etc. These are all places that a terrorist could consider a target for use of chemical weapons.
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Where Have Chemical Weapons Been Used Before?

The most talked about occasion of chemical weapons being used was during the Holocaust. Hitler demanded the extermination of the Jewish population. The Germans used the chemical Zyklon B. Zyklon B was a cyanide based chemical that the Germans invented in the early 1920's. It was used to massacre over 1 million Jews at the Auschwitz Birkenau extermination camp. Once the gas chamber was filled, the doors were sealed shut and a soldier on the top of the roof of the chamber began to drop solid pellets of Zyklon B that would emit cyanide. Most inside these death chambers died within 20 minutes, however if you were close enough to a vent in the chamber, your death occurred quicker.

Because the chamber was sealed shut, it was impossible to see inside and tell exactly what the initial symptoms of exposure to Zyklon B were. However, German doctors who oversaw the mass executions testified to seeing bleeding from the ears, foaming at the mouth, and red and green spots on the corpses.
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Is the US Prepared for these Attacks?

With terroristic organizations like ISIS running rampant, it's no doubt that there could be a possible risk of chemical weapons being used in the United States.
We could say that they are more prepared than previous years for the possibility of attacks like these. However, I do not believe the US population is prepared. Though the government may be able to take measures of preparedness for chemical attacks, much of the public wouldn't know how to prepare for such an event.
I believe that if the government and schools educated the public on preparedness for chemical weapons, the Nation would truly become prepared.
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What Can We Do to Keep Americans Safe?

Education on these types of subjects is crucial. Many people have an idea of what chemical weapons are and what they do, however they have no idea how to keep themselves safe in the event of chemical warfare.

I truly believe that they should expand on this subject in Chemistry class. In the event of a chemical weapons attack, what kids learn in school could save lives.

There is also a lack of adequate training for US doctors and nurses about treatment of exposure to chemical weapons. In more middle eastern countries, this is a subject taught extensively because it happens often over there with terrorists getting their hands on chemical weapons. I think the same type of education and training should be applied here.
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Bibliography

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:
https://www.opcw.org/
United States Chemical Weapons Convention
http://www.cwc.gov/
Homeland Security
https://www.dhs.gov/publication/chemical-attack-fact-sheet