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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


German Chemical Weapons

World War I

Chemical agents in the modem sense were first used in World War I, when chlorine gas was released, from large cylinders, in a favorable wind. This surprise operation caused massive casualties, demoralisation of the forces attacked and demonstrated the need for protection from this kind of warfare. The first improvised mask was a cotton pad soaked in sodium thiosulphate, glycerine and sodium carbonate. Subsequently in World War I, a great variety of chemical agents were used by both sides, the most damaging being the blister producing mustard gas. Military clothing, even with a respirator, gave little protection against this agent.

Chlorine was used during World War I as a choking (pulmonary) agent. Chlorine is sometimes in the form of a poisonous gas. Chlorine gas can be pressurized and cooled to change it into a liquid so that it can be shipped and stored. When liquid chlorine is released, it quickly turns into a gas that stays close to the ground and spreads rapidly.

Sulfur mustard is a type of chemical warfare agent. These kinds of agents are called vesicants or blistering agents, because they cause blistering of the skin and mucous membranes on contact. Sulfur mustard is also known as "mustard gas or mustard agent," or by the military designations H, HD, and HT.

Phosgene was used extensively during World War I as a choking (pulmonary) agent. Among the chemicals used in the war, phosgene was responsible for the large majority of deaths.

World War II

Chemical agents were not used in World War II, but at the end of the war stockpiles of newer agents, called "nerve gases," were discovered. These were found to be effective in much lower concentrations than those agents known up to that time. The standard of training and preparedness of the Services and the fear of retaliation were possible reasons why chemical agents were not used.

Tabun was originally developed as a pesticide in Germany in 1936. Tabun is a man-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar to pesticides (insect killers) called organophosphates in terms of how they work and what kinds of harmful effects they cause. However, nerve agents are much more potent than organophosphate pesticides. Tabun is a clear, colorless, tasteless liquid with a faint fruity odor. Tabun can become a vapor if heated.

Sarin originally was developed in 1938 in Germany as a pesticide. Sarin is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar to certain kinds of pesticides (insect killers) called organophosphates in terms of how they work and what kind of harmful effects they cause. However, nerve agents are much more potent than organophosphate pesticides.

Soman was originally developed as an insecticide in Germany in 1944. Soman is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar to pesticides (insect killers) called organophosphates in terms of how they work and the kinds of harmful effects they cause. However, nerve agents are much more potent than organophosphate pesticides.



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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:39:59 ZULU