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Chemical Weapons Essay

1831 words - 7 pages

Chemical weapons are weapons that use the toxic properties of chemical substances rather than their explosive properties to produce physical or psychological effects on the enemy. Chemical weapons are among the most devious creations of man. They are weapons that were created to kill or incapacitate the enemy in a grievous manner. In this paper, I will present a brief history of chemical weapons, a description of their effects on the human body, how they are produced, stored, delivered, and what to do in the event of a chemical weapons attack.Although many examples of what might be termed chemical weapons date to antiquity, chemical weapons experienced their first wide use in World War One. During this war, both sides used chlorine and mustard "gas" (actually an aerosol or vapor) to inflict incredible casualties. The Geneva protocol, signed in 1925, outlawed the use of chemical weapons in war. Many nations, the US included, reserved the right to retaliate with chemical weapons if they were attacked. After that, Italy used chemical weapons in Ethiopia and Japan used them in Manchuria. The Allies never used them during World War Two, despite amassing such huge quantities that disposal was an immense logistical problem (Dirk). The Nazis used Zyklon B in their death camps (like Auschwitz). Chemical weapons only other use in war was when Iraq used them in its 1982-87 war with Iran. Japanese terrorists released sarin gas in 1994 in a Tokyo subway. (Brown)Chemical weapons are divided into eight categories: five lethal and three non-lethal. The lethal categories are nerve agent, asphyxiant/blood agent, blister/vesicant, choking/pulmonary agent and cytotoxic proteins. The three non-lethal categories are the lachrymatory agents, the incapacitating agents, and the defoliants.Nerve agents are chemicals that disrupt the mechanism by which nerves transfer messages to organs. The disruption is caused by blocking acetyl cholinesterase, an enzyme that normally destroys and stops the activity of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. Poisoning by a nerve agent leads to contraction of pupils, profuse salivation, convulsions, involuntary urination and defecation, and eventual death by asphyxiation as control is lost over respiratory muscles. Nerve agents can be absorbed through the skin, requiring that those likely to be subjected to such agents wear a full body suit in addition to a gas mask. Sarin gas is a nerve agent (Dawes).A blood agent (or cyanogen agent) is a chemical compound, containing the cyanide group, which prevents the body from utilizing oxygen. The term "blood agent" is a misnomer, however, because these agents do not actually affect the blood in any way. Rather, they exert their toxic effect at the cellular level by directly interrupting cellular respiration. This causes confusion, reddening of the skin, nausea, seizures and death. Arsenic and cyanide are blood agents (Dawes).A blister agent (or vesicant) is an acid forming chemical compound that causes...

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