cwarnotes - Chemical Warfare Agents What is a Chemical...

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1 Chemical Warfare Agents What is a Chemical Warfare Agent? A United Nations report from 1969 defines chemical warfare agents as " . .. chemical substances, whether gaseous, liquid or solid, which might be employed because of their direct toxic effects on man, animals and plants . .. ". The Chemical Weapons Convention defines chemical weapons as including not only toxic chemicals but also ammunition and equipment for their dispersal. Toxic chemicals are stated to be " . .. any chemical which, through its chemical effect on living processes, may cause death, temporary loss of performance, or permanent injury to people and animals". Plants are not mentioned in this context. Toxins, i.e., poisons produced by living organisms and their synthetic equivalents, are classed as chemical warfare agents if they are used for military purposes. However, they have a special position since they are covered by the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 1972. This convention bans the development, production and stockpiling of such substances not required for peaceful purposes. About 70 different chemicals have been used or stockpiled as CW agents during the 20th century. Today, only a few of these are considered of interest owing to a number of demands that must be placed on a substance if it is to be of use as a CW agent. * A presumptive agent must not only be highly toxic but also "suitably highly toxic" so that it is not too difficult to handle. * The substance must be capable of being stored for long periods in containers without degradation and without corroding the packaging material.
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2 * It must be relatively resistant to atmospheric water and oxygen so that it does not lose effect when dispersed. * It must also withstand the heat developed when dispersed. These Military Chemicals are Not Considered to be Chemical Weapons *Incendiary agents such as napalm and phosphorus are not considered to be CW agents since they achieve their effect mainly through thermal energy. *Certain types of smoke screen may be poisonous in extremely high concentrations but, nonetheless, smoke ammunition is not classed as a chemical weapon since the poisonous effect is not the reason for their use. *Plants, microorganisms, algae, etc. which produce toxins are not classed as chemical weapons even if the produced toxins belong to that class. Pathogenic microorganisms, mainly viruses and bacteria, are classed as biological weapons. 1. Purpose of using Chemical Weapons a. Lethality. b. Delay effects- Mustard agents are a further example of efficacy arising from delayed effects. They are not readily detectable by smell 2 or other quick-acting physiological responses or warning properties, so large numbers of personnel may be injured before the danger is recognized. The low lethality of such agents is not necessarily a disadvantage, since care of the disabled is demanding. In World War I, 2 percent of fatalities were mustard casualties c. Burden-
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3 It is very difficult to rapidly detect all threats or to recognize all attacks in a
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This note was uploaded on 09/02/2011 for the course CHEM 10 taught by Professor Harrison during the Spring '11 term at West Valley.

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cwarnotes - Chemical Warfare Agents What is a Chemical...

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