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Essay Paper on Warfare Agents

by Harvey Clark 

Warfare was classified by the military as nuclear warfare, biological warfare and chemical warfare. According to the US Army Chemical School, these three warfare or weapons were propagated in some third world countries during the 1960s (1998). Among the three, however, biological and chemical warfare are the easiest to use to incapacitate or injure a wide population like schools. We shall be discussing biological and chemical warfare agents to closely see what the threats are and the symptoms upon exposure of these weapons.

Before going to the biological warfare agents, let us define briefly what biological warfare or BW is. BW is the use of toxins and organisms or pathogens which thrive naturally to be used against a target or an enemy (Dire, 2011). It is known for its “low visibility, high potency, substantial accessibility, and relatively easy delivery (Dire, 2011).” As early as 400 BC, biological weapons were already in use. BW is used to contaminate and poison food and water sources with infectious material, used microorganisms or toxins on weapons or in created containers that will dispose it, and “biologically inoculated fabrics (Dire, 2011).” This kind of warfare agents include pathogens like plague, typhus, cholera, anthrax, smallpox, Q fever, tularemia; while toxins from plants and animals like ricin and botulinum toxin (US Army Chemical School, 1998). The symptoms of exposure to BW “require days to weeks and there typically will be no characteristic signatures. Because of the delayed onset of symptoms in a biological incident, the area affected may be greater due to the migration of infected individuals (Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism, 1998).” Gastrointestinal and upper respiratory illnesses can also be experienced.

Chemical warfare, on the other hand, is the use of toxic chemical preparations or substances as a lethal weapon. The first chemical weapon was chlorine which was used during World War I. Other chemical agents that have flourished are hydrogen cyanide, dichlorodiethyl sulphide or mustard gas, fluoroacetates and organophosphorous, tabun, sarin, soman and VX (US Army Chemical School, 1998). These chemical agents target the blood, nerves, lungs and skin which can cause skin blisters, choking, nausea, convulsions and worst of all, death (US Army Chemical School, 1998). The symptoms appear instantly like “water-like blisters, wheals or bee-like stings, pinpointed pupils, choking, respiratory ailments and rashes” and can be observed easily like the occurrence of “colored residue, dead foliage, pungent odor, and dead insect and animal life” (Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism, 1998).

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US Army Chemical School (1998, August 21). The Worldwide Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threat. Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/cbw/NBC_Threat.pdf
Dire, Daniel (2011, November 23). Biological Warfare Agents. Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/829613-overview
Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism (1998, October). Chemical/Biological/Radiological Incident Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/cbw/CBR_hdbk.htm

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