Blood Agents: What are they?
The term blood agents came about because at the time they were first introduced, it
was believed that, they had an effect on the actual blood itself. This was due to the bright red
color it caused its victims, not for the true effects that these agents have on the oxygen in the
blood. Blood agents are chemical agents that lessen the amount of oxygen in the blood stream.
They do this in one of two ways: they either prohibit oxygen from entering the blood or obstruct
the blood and keep it from moving from one place in the body to another. Exposure may result
from inhalation, ingestion, injection, and/or skin contact.
The chemicals known as blood agents are hydrogen cyanide, cyanogen chloride, arsine,
carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and phosgene. Each one of these blood agents has its own
unique characteristics, and has slightly different effects on the body. In addition, each agent has a
diverse use, and some are used in the development of other products, or developed as a
derivative of something else we may in fact use. Next we’ll take a look at each agent’s physical
characteristics, how they affect the human body, how they were created, what their use is, or has
been, as well as detection, and first aid and decontamination methods.
Hydrogen cyanide, also known as Prussic acid, is a very volatile, colorless or pale blue,
gas when at high temperatures and a liquid at low temperatures. It has a low bitter almond odor
which most people do not notice. Hydrogen cyanide is very dangerous because it has a total body
affect, affecting the organs that do not function well when low on oxygen, which happen to be
the most important parts of the body such as the brain, heart, and lungs. It affects the body’s
ability to use oxygen as it normally does. Hydrogen cyanide is used to make certain types of
plastics, pesticides, synthetic fibers, dyes, and other products, as well as being used for
fumigation and in mining. Poisoning from this agent can also come from fire smoke. Hydrogen
cyanide was discovered by Carl Scheele in 1782. Because of its highly poisonous traits, it was
quickly recruited as a chemical warfare agent. The French used a sizable amount of cyanide in
World War I without great success. During World War II, the United States retained a small
quantity of cyanide weapons. Hydrogen cyanide and cyanogen chloride are kept hold of due to
their nature to act quickly and, at high doses, become hard to filter in the air (Spiers, 1986).
Supposedly Japan used cyanide against China before World War II, and it’s thought that Iraq
used it against the Kurds in the 1980’s (Chemical Casualty Care Office, 1995).
Cyanogen chloride is a volatile gas when above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but it is a liquid
when colder. It has an irritating odor similar to pepper, and may cause death within 6-8 minutes
in high concentrations and confined spaces. It also causes immediate symptoms such as irritation
to the eyes...