Chemical-Biological Terrorism and Its Impact on Children

Pediatrics. 2020 Feb;145(2):e20193750. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-3750.


Children are potential victims of chemical or biological terrorism. In recent years, children have been victims of terrorist acts such as the chemical attacks (2017-2018) in Syria. Consequently, it is necessary to prepare for and respond to the needs of children after a chemical or biological attack. A broad range of public health initiatives have occurred since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. However, in many cases, these initiatives have not ensured the protection of children. Since 2001, public health preparedness has broadened to an all-hazards approach, in which response plans for terrorism are blended with those for unintentional disasters or outbreaks (eg, natural events such as earthquakes or pandemic influenza or man-made catastrophes such as a hazardous-materials spill). In response to new principles and programs that have evolved over the last decade, this technical report supports the accompanying update of the American Academy of Pediatrics 2006 policy statement "Chemical-Biological Terrorism and its Impact on Children." The roles of the pediatrician and public health agencies continue to evolve, and only their coordinated readiness and response efforts will ensure that the medical and mental health needs of children will be met successfully. In this document, we will address chemical and biological incidents. Radiation disasters are addressed separately.

Publication types

  • Technical Report

MeSH terms

  • Airway Obstruction / chemically induced
  • Asphyxia / chemically induced
  • Biological Factors / classification
  • Biological Factors / toxicity
  • Bioterrorism / psychology*
  • Chemical Terrorism / psychology*
  • Child
  • Civil Defense* / education
  • Civil Defense* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Civil Defense* / organization & administration
  • Containment of Biohazards
  • Decontamination / methods
  • Disaster Planning* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Government Regulation
  • Humans
  • Irritants / classification
  • Irritants / toxicity
  • Mental Health
  • Nerve Agents / classification
  • Nerve Agents / toxicity
  • Pediatrics
  • Physician's Role
  • Poison Control Centers / organization & administration
  • Population Surveillance
  • Primary Health Care
  • Ricin / toxicity
  • Smallpox / prevention & control
  • Surge Capacity
  • United States


  • Biological Factors
  • Irritants
  • Nerve Agents
  • Ricin