Emergency management of chemical weapons injuries

J Pharm Pract. 2012 Feb;25(1):61-8. doi: 10.1177/0897190011420677. Epub 2011 Nov 11.


The potential for chemical weapons to be used in terrorism is a real possibility. Classes of chemical weapons include nerve agents, vesicants (blister agents), choking agents, incapacitating agents, riot control agents, blood agents, and toxic industrial chemicals. The nerve agents work by blocking the actions of acetylcholinesterase leading to a cholinergic syndrome. Nerve agents include sarin, tabun, VX, cyclosarin, and soman. The vesicants include sulfur mustard and lewisite. The vesicants produce blisters and also damage the upper airways. Choking agents include phosgene and chlorine gas. Choking agents cause pulmonary edema. Incapacitating agents include fentanyl and its derivatives and adamsite. Riot control agents include Mace and pepper spray. Blood agents include cyanide. The mechanism of toxicity for cyanide is blocking oxidative phosphorylation. Toxic industrial chemicals include agents such as formaldehyde, hydrofluoric acid, and ammonia.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel / organization & administration
  • Allied Health Personnel / psychology
  • Allied Health Personnel / standards
  • Chemical Hazard Release*
  • Chemical Terrorism*
  • Chemical Warfare Agents / chemistry*
  • Chemical Warfare Agents / history
  • Disaster Planning / organization & administration
  • Disaster Planning / standards*
  • Emergency Medical Services / organization & administration
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Mass Casualty Incidents / psychology
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy*


  • Chemical Warfare Agents