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Nerve Agents   |   Sulfur Mustards   |  Cyanide   |  

Chlorine   |  Questions & Answers  |  More information



Nerve Agents


May be a liquid or a
gas. Nerve agents enter the body through:
•  skin and eyes
•  breathing in (inhalation)
•  the mouth (by eating or swallowing)

Nerve agents are not contagious. They cannot spread from person 
to person.

Symptoms and treatment:
Upon exposure to a nerve agent, the pupils of the eyes shrink to pinpoints and the body begins sweating and twitching. Runny nose, watery eyes, drooling, excessive sweating, difficult breathing, dimness of vision, nausea, and vomiting follow.

At first sight of symptoms, immediately remove the victim's clothing and flush eyes and skin with plenty of water, then seek medical attention. There are antidotes for specific chemical agents.

Immediate Action:
• Immediate actions for all chemical agents are very similar

•  If you are exposed, the effects will be fairly rapid

•  People around you may begin fainting, vomiting and have difficulty breathing

•  Birds and insects may die quickly and fall from the sky

•  IMMEDIATELY leave the area

•  Avoid puddles of liquid

•  If the attack was outside, get inside a building or a car

•  If you were directly exposed, remove clothing (place in plastic bags, if possible)

•  Removing contaminated clothing is more important than modesty

•  Do not pull contaminated clothing over your head; cut or tear it off to avoid contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth

•  Thoroughly flush all areas where agent contacted your skin using nearest available water

•  Emergency personnel are trained for immediate response, and medical treatment is available at most hospitals



                      Sulfer Mustards


Sulfur Mustards are generally thick yellow or brown liquids with a slight garlic or mustard odor. Sulfur 
Mustards enter the body 
•  skin and eyes
•  breathing in (inhalation)
•  the mouth (by eating or swallowing)


Sulfur Mustards are NOT contagious. They cannot be 

spread from person to person

Symptoms and treatment:
Mustard gas is a blistering agent that burns the eyes, the lungs, the mouth and throat, and any skin exposed to the gas. Symptoms, however, are not usually noticed until 1 - 6 hours after exposure.

If exposed to Sulfur Mustards, one should remove clothing and flush the eyes and skin with plenty of water, then immediately seek medical attention. There are antidotes for specific chemical agents.




Hydrogen Cyanide
(HCN) is an extremely flammable, colorless gas or liquid. It enters
the body through:
•  skin and eyes
•  breathing in (inhalation)
•  the mouth (by eating or swallowing)

Hydrogen Cyanide is NOT contagious. It cannot be spread from person to person.

Symptoms and treatment:
Symptoms include burning and redness of the skin and the eyes. Hydrogen Cyanide, if inhaled, causes confusion, drowsiness, shortness of breath, and eventually collapse.

If exposed to HCN, get fresh air immediately. Flush skin and eyes with plenty of water, then immediately seek medical attention.




Chlorine is a greenish-yellow gas with a 
stinging odor. Because chlorine 
is heavier than air, it settles in 
low spots.

Chlorine enters the body through:
•  skin and eyes
•  breathing in (inhalation)
•  the mouth (from eating contaminated food)

Chlorine is NOT contagious. It cannot be spread from person to person.

Symptoms and treatment:
Chlorine is very harmful to the eyes and skin and can cause tearing, blurred vision, difficulty breathing, and burns.

If exposed to Chlorine, get fresh air immediately. If exposed to skin, flush skin and eyes with plenty of water, then immediately seek medical attention.

Questions and Answers

Should I purchase a gas mask as protection? No.

A mask would only protect you if you were wearing it when a chemical attack occurs. A release of a chemical agent is most likely to be done without anyone knowing it ahead of time. Masks that are not properly fitted will NOT give you adequate protection. Protective masks do not fit small children. There are reports of accidental suffocation when people have worn masks incorrectly.

Should I keep a stockpile of water?

You can live only a few days without water, so it is very important that you create an emergency supply of safe water. One gallon of safe water per person per day is the bare minimum for survival. Most surplus stores can sell you inexpensive, 50-gallon plastic drums. Properly chlorinated tap water can be safely stored for up to three months. Water purification tablets are also readily available from many surplus and camping supply stores.

What are the signs of a chemical attack?

Many chemical agents cannot be seen or smelled. Observe the following rule of thumb: If a single person is on the ground, choking or seizing, this individual is probably having a heart attack or some type of seizure. However, if several people are down, coughing, vomiting, or seizing, they could be reacting to the presence of a toxic substance. Leave the area immediately, call 911, and tell the dispatcher a hazardous gas may be present.

What should I do during a chemical attack?

If the attack occurs indoors:
Exit the building immediately. Avoid puddles of liquid. Once outside, if you were directly exposed to a toxic substance, discarding your modesty and shedding your clothes could save your life. Taking off your outer clothing can remove roughly 80 percent of the contamination hazard. Look for a nearby fountain, pool, or other source of water to quickly and thoroughly rinse any skin that may have been exposed (e.g., jump in a pool). Water alone is an effective decontaminant. Try to remain calm. Rescuers will give medical attention to the most seriously injured individuals first.

If the attack occurs outdoors:
Birds and other small animals would very quickly be overcome by a poison gas, so if birds and insects are dropping from the sky, this is an indication of a possible chemical attack. The most important thing is to get a physical barrier between you and the toxic cloud. Get indoors quickly, into a building or a car. Shut all windows and doors and turn off the air conditioner or heater. Plug any air drafts around doors or windows. Call 911 and notify authorities that a hazardous gas may be present. The wind will carry the toxic hazard away within a relatively short period of time. Stay indoors, and turn on the television or radio for news. Authorities will notify you when it is safe to go outside. If you are at home, put your clothes in a plastic bag and take a shower to remove any contamination to which you may have been exposed.