Technical Rescue

Chlorine

Issue 11 and Volume 161.

By Frank L. Fire Chlorine is classified as a choking agent (or pulmonary agent). This class of chemical warfare agents (CWAs) incapacitates enemy combatants by attacking the respiratory system, causing the victims to cough violently, choke, and therefore become incapacitated. The nasal passages, bronchi, mucous membrane surfaces, and the lungs are all primary targets. Pulmonary agents in high concentrations or long exposures will cause pulmonary edema, suffocation, and eventually death. For soldiers, wearing gas masks to protect themselves from chlorine (or any other gaseous warfare agent) would be so confining that they would add to the soldiers’ discomfort and limit their efficiency on the battleground. In addition, chlorine’s corrosiveness will adversely affect skin that comes in contact with it. Choking agents were the first CWAs used successfully in combat. Even before the science of chemistry evolved, armies used fire on the battlefields whenever wind conditions were right so that the…

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