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Biology and Chemical Warfare Essay

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Biology and Chemical Warfare

Introduction

Chemical and Biological Warfare, use of harmful or deadly chemical or biological agents as weapons of war. These agents can kill many people and are considered weapons of mass destruction. Chemical weapons are made up of poisonous chemical compounds, whereas biological weapons are living microorganisms. Toxin weapons contain poisonous chemical products of living organisms and are sometimes classified separately. Chemical and biological weapons can cause injury in several ways. Most cause injury or death when inhaled, and some cause injury through contact with skin or through ingestion of contaminated food.

A chemical or biological attack usually involves dispersing agents into the air.
This can be done in various ways, such as firing artillery shells that burst in mid-air, or using airplanes to spray the agents over an area. If released outdoors, these types of weapons can be affected by weather conditions. Rain would reduce the effectiveness of the agents, and wind might spread them in unexpected directions. Because chemical and biological agents are seen as random, dangerous, and particularly cruel weapons, they have rarely been used. In the 20th century, chemicals were used extensively as battlefield weapons only in World War I (1914-1918) and the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988).
The release of the nerve agent sarin in a Tokyo subway in 1995 was a rare terrorist chemical attack.

The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention are the most recent international agreements prohibiting these types of weapons, and both have been signed by many countries. Nevertheless, analysts contend that following the Iran-Iraq War, more countries began to secretly develop chemical and biological weapons, and the threat of their use has become greater. Iraq in particular has been accused of stockpiling such weapons, and Iraqi resistance to United Nations weapons inspections in the late 1990s raised international awareness of the need for stronger efforts to control biological and chemical weapons.

II. Chemical WarfarePrint section

Chemical warfare involves the use of chemical compounds to kill or seriously injure an enemy. Several countries began eliminating their chemical weapons stockpiles in the 1990s, but the threat of their use still exists.

A. Chemical AgentsPrint section...


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...s, an explosive release is not necessary. Members of Aum Shinrikyo attacked the Tokyo subway by packing sarin in plastic containers. To release the nerve agent, they pierced the containers with sharp umbrella tips. The leaking liquid and vapor affected thousands of passengers.

Microorganisms are generally more fragile than chemicals, and some might not survive an explosion. But several, like anthrax spores, do remain potent after an explosive release. In any case, United States Army tests have shown that biological agents can be broadly dispersed in a variety of non-explosive ways. In the 1950s and 1960s the Army released bacteria and chemical particles in hundreds of tests in populated areas throughout the country. Agents were sprayed at San Francisco from a boat offshore, dispensed from slow-moving cars in Minneapolis and St. Louis, and released from light bulbs dropped in the New York subway. The bacteria and chemicals in the tests were not as dangerous as actual warfare agents, although they posed some risks to the exposed populations. They demonstrated that an enemy or terrorist could expose millions of people to disease-causing organisms by a variety of simple techniques.


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