Chemical Weapon

A chemical weapon (CW) is a device that uses chemicals formulated to inflict death or harm to human beings. They may be classified as weapons of mass destruction though are separate from biological weapons (diseases), nuclear weapons and radiological weapons (which use radioactive decay of elements). Chemical weapons can be widely dispersed in gas, liquid and solid forms and may easily afflict others than the intended targets. Nerve gas and tear gas are two modern examples.

Lethal unitary chemical agents and munitions are extremely volatile and constitute a class of hazardous chemical weapons stockpiled by many nations. (Unitary agents are effective on their own and require no mixing with other agents.) The most dangerous of these are nerve agents GA, GB, and VX, and vesicant (blister) agents which are formulations of sulfur mustard such as H, HT, and HD. All are liquids at normal room temperature, but become gaseous when released. Widely used during the First World War, the effects of so-called mustard gas, phosgene gas and others caused lung searing, blindness, death and maiming. In addition, the gas was unreliable because of wind dispersion and often drifted back into the user's own lines. The public was so horrified by the results and the military so unimpressed that the complete elimination of this class of weapon was widely supported after the war. Large modern stockpiles continue to exist, though usually only as a precaution against use by an aggressor. Progress is still being made to fulfill its eradication through international law.

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