Chemistry In Chemical Weapons

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Chemical weapons are specialized weapons to inflict death or harm on humans. For example, blister agents will burn a person’s mucous membranes, skin and eyes. Chemical weapons were used during war as it is deadly and stealthy. During world war 1,there was a colorless chemical weapon that makes the soldiers did not noticed that they have received a fatal dose. The chemical weapons have high potential to be used not only in war but in daily life as protection because it is easy to use and mostly have instant fatal effects. For example, pepper spray for personal protection from being robbed or attacked. Chemical weapons contribute bad consequences toward human being. Some chemical agents cause death by interfering with nervous system and inhibit breathing which lead to asphyxiation.

Nowadays, chemical agents might be effectively used as weapon of terror in situations where limited or enclosed space might decrease the required amounts of chemical. Whether terrorist groups are capable of using chemical agents as a weapon of mass destruction is unclear, some experts have asserted that the volumes of chemicals required to cause mass casualties makes the scenario unlikely. Sum up, we have to use our knowledge of chemistry in a proper way but not to use it for other reason that may affect others life. For humans, in the few minutes of exposure, the phosgene will hydrolyze and become an acidic medium to the eyes and respiratory tract. Usually, the victim that has been exposed to phosgene for 48 hours will experience death after exposure from progressive pulmonary edema and anoxia. For animals, animals studies have proven that phosgene contribute a steep exposure-response curve for pulmonary edema. It also indicated that only little species variability because all species that are exposed have the similar clinical signs.

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In 1943, all patients who are exposed to phosgene had experienced choking like sensation and cough and ocular symptoms such as redness and lacrimation developed followed by breathlessness in all cases .This is one of the many reasons why phosgene is not encouragd to be used nowadays.


Living in the era of modern globalization nowadays, we often exposed by the new innovations and technologies by the experts especially the existence of chemical weapon. Generally, the chemical weapon is applied with chemistry knowledge and chemical elements. For instance, choke agent and pulmonary agent. These agents are being used to impede the victim’s ability to breathe because it’ll build-up in the lungs and lead to suffocation. Aside from that, every type choking agent tends to be corrosive, causing blurred vision and severe deep burns because it is in the form of smoke. Choke agent or pulmonary agent will contribute hazardous effects whenever it’s inhaled. For example, inhaling the pulmonary agent will burn the victim’s throat due to the chemical substances. Plus, one also will experience chest pain, coughing, vomiting and respiratory system failure since the pulmonary agent is made up of hazardous chemicals. There are various choking agent that can be found, for instance, Phosgene, Diphosgene, Chlorine gas, Acrolein and more. Back to the basic, investigation of chemical weapon still contribute a lot in certain findings. As a researcher, we still seek a lot on how chemical weapon affect the human’s life since some pulmonary agent or choke agent lead upon death. In conjunction, the function of chemical weapon and its potential in various fields are also still not come up to a conclusion.

Chemical weapon is defined as toxic chemicals or its precursor that can cause death, injury, temporary incapacitation or sensory irritation through its chemical action such as irritants, asphyxiants, poisonous and corroding gas, obscurants and vesicants (Christopher, 2019). Chemical weapons are delivered with specialized munitions or other delivery devices whether filled or unfilled, are also considered weapons themselves. Munitions are materials used in war, especially weapons and ammunition.

The purpose of the review is to acknowledge the harm and injury that could be done by pulmonary agents or choking agents such as phosgene. Choking agents are deadly and can be fatal if exposed for a prolonged period of time. Other than that, the motive is to increase awareness about the implications of chemical weapons’ usage to every level of society. This action could help to avoid any misuse and reemergence of chemical weapons.


Phosgene is a major industrial chemicals used to make plastics, herbicides, pesticides and dyes (M. Bickford, 1992). Its molecular formula is COCl₂. Phosgene is a colorless gas at constant temperature and pressure. At room temperature, phosgene is a poisonous gas. At certain concentration in the air, phosgene smells like the new mown hay or green corn. A higher concentration, phosgene has a strong odor, stifling and very unpleasant. It is formed when chlorinated hydrocarbon compounds are exposed to high temperature. This can be done when carbon monoxide react with chlorine gas. Phosgene gas is the vapor produced. It is easily dispersed by wind. Plus, phosgene gas is more than three times dense of air and therefore, concentration emission plumes tend to settle to the ground and collect in low areas. It tends to sink into trenches and ditches making it fairly non-persistent to the ground. In addition, with cooling and pressure, phosgene gas can be converted into liquid so that it can be shipped and stored. Besides, liquid phosgene will discolor and turn into green and pale yellow when exposed to impurities. In water, phosgene is sparingly soluble and decomposes to hydrochloric acid and carbon dioxide. Hence, wet phosgene is very corrosive and freely soluble in most liquid hydrocarbons, benzene, toluene, and, glacial acetic acid.

Phosgene gas is first introduced during World War 1 in 1915. At that time, it was widely used as a choking (pulmonary) agent. Generally, World War 1 was the first war that using large scale of chemical weapons. The widespread use of chemical weapons during the warfare had given the rise to an expressed view as “the chemist’s war”. There were a range of different chemicals were used as weapons throughout the conflict such as tear gas and mustard gas. Even though chemical weapons only accounting to 1% of total deaths in the war, but phosgene gas responsible for 85% of chemical weapon fatalities during the warfare which made phosgene gas as one of the deadliest and poisonous chemical weapons. Furthermore, every life was threatened and not limited to combatants. The civilians were also in the risk of exposure with phosgene. At that time, the soldiers were often cautioned to be alert for unexplained odor of mown hay or grass. So, there were some countermeasures implemented by them such as wearing gas masks.

Mostly, people who were exposed to phosgene gas were via skin contact, eye contact or breathing into the air. But, inhalation is the most important route for exposure to the gas. Therefore, when someone inhaled the gas, it is common for an individual to experience chest pain. This is because of its low solubility and water but heavier than air. Bit by bit, phosgene will deposit in the deeper region of the lungs and showing the symptoms. For a low concentration of phosgene gas exposure, it may produce mild cough, burning throat and chest pain. Nevertheless, high concentration of exposure may cause pulmonary edema within 2 to 6 hours. Pulmonary edema was the most critical signs of phosgene exposure. Thus, person who exposed with phosgene gas should be monitored for 48 hours as it tends to get worsen after the time period and may lead upon death.

A person that is exposed by the phosgene gas will be diagnosed if they have minor eye and throat problems because phosgene is an irritant to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. There may be minimal irritation immediately after exposure but the problems tend to worsen and reappear over 48 hours. The breathing problems that may occur are coughing, difficulty of breathing and coughing up fluid that is tinged pink in color which is a sign of pulmonary edema. Furthermore, when wet or moist skin was directly contact with phosgene vapor, it will cause redness, blisters or frostbite. Some common initial signs include headache, nausea, vomiting and feeling tightness in the chest. Exposure of phosgene cannot be cure easily but, its effect can be treated because most victims that are exposed to the phosgene gas make a complete recovery. However, chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the major result of phosgene exposure.

Long short story, Phosgene is a colorless gas at ambient temperature and pressure thus, inhalation is the best route for exposure of phosgene where the victims tend to inhale the hazardous colorless gas. Small amounts of phosgene can be irritating to the eyes and throat because it will undergo hydrolysis to form hydrochloric acid which will give an acidic medium bit by bit will irritates. At room temperature, phosgene is six times more deadly than chlorine gas which is much stealthier. Phosgene first gained reputation worldwide during the World War I, when it is used in chemical warfare. Phosgene gas is colorless and not obvious when spread to the air causing the soldier or allies did not realize they had received a fatal dose. After a day or two the soldiers that are inhaled the phosgene gas will become suffocated because their lungs will fill with fluid and they will slowly agonizing to death. Phosgene was responsible for higher percentage of fatalities by chemical weapon when it is first used by the Germans at the battlefield as a primary weapon to defeat the allies. Delayed effects that can appear for up to 48 hours include the following; difficulty breathing, coughing up white to pink-tinged fluid (a sign of pulmonary edema ) , low blood pressure and heart failure. Most people who recover after an exposure to phosgene make a complete recovery.

At room temperature, phosgene is a colorless, nonflammable gas with a suffocating odor like new mown hay. However, odor provides insufficient warning of hazardous concentrations. At high concentrations it is mildly irritating. Below 47°, Phosgene existed as colorless gas and when in contact with the liquid, it may cause frostbite. Basically, in the presence of liquid such that saliva, sweat or even tears, the phosgene gas will hydrolyze to become hydrochloric acid which will give an acidic medium to the cell surrounding and bit by bit will damage the cells. As we know, inhalation and respiratory tract is the major route for phosgene gas, apparently, the phosgene will be absorbed to some extent of the lungs and not by skin intact. It is corrosive to the lungs and intact skin. In massive exposure of phosgene especially in wide area and high concentration of phosgene gas, occlusion of the pulmonary circulation of the pulmonary secondary will be resulting to the immediate death because of the thrombus formation.

The irritation quality of phosgene can be mild and delayed thus, the prolonged periods are resulted by the lack of avoidance. Even worst, poor ventilated, low-lying and enclosed space will cause asphyxiation due to the mass of phosgene gas that is heavier than air. Larger doses of phosgene will affect the children if they are exposed to the same level of phosgene as the adults because they have greater lung surface area. In addition, the children also experience higher level of phosgene gas because of their height which leads them to be affected by the higher level of phosgene on the ground. Other than that, through skin and eye contact, when phosgene gas contacts moist or wet skin, it may cause irritation and erythema. Plus, inflammation and opacification also happened due to the high airborne concentration of the phosgene. Children are more vulnerable to toxicants affecting the skin because of their relatively larger surface area and body weight ratio. Moreover, phosgene is unlikely to be ingested by the victim due to its state as a gas in room temperature and this is relevant that phosgene gas will only affect the respiratory system but not digestive system. Undoubtedly, at a very sufficient high exposure of phosgene gas, the respiratory symptoms may be accompanied by hyporolemia and hypertension which will lead to stroke or even death. In warfare aspect, phosgene first gained worldwide reputation when it is first used during World War I. It was the principal agent used, accounting for approximately 80% of the 100,000 gas-induced casualties. Phosgene is a primary backbone for various organic industries and foremost pharmaceutical. Phosgene exposure can occur in fires involving certain chlorinated organic compounds found in many household solvents, paint removers, and dry cleaning fluids or wool, Polyvinyl chloride, and other plastics. There will be a little or no irritation occur if the phosgene is at a concentration of 1 ppm in the air, but after certain period of hours, it will affects the surrounding and even living things where it will cause severe pulmonary edema. Phosgene will give massive impacts if it is in 4 to 10 ppm of concentration where the victims will experience irritation of eyes and respiratory tract. Exposure occurs by inhalation and the fact that phosgene is only a slightly water-soluble gas and that due to this, significant irritation of upper respiratory tract and eyes may not occur, leading to prolonged exposure. Phosgene exerts its toxicity through the acylation of proteins as well as through the release of hydrochloric acid. Several groups in protein will be the target for acylation such that, hydroxyl, amino, sulfhydryl and other groups. In conjunction, this will lead to marked inhibition of enzymes that related to the energy metabolism and by bit will breakdown the blood-air barrier. Apparently, these severe effects are the major reason why phosgene gas is used during the warfare as chemical weapon. For example, phosgene gas is widely use during the World War I and was a primary weapon for the Germans to defeat their allies during war.


Undoubtedly, all chemical weapons are designed to kill or incapacitate people or animals due to its characteristic which is hazardous. Thus, by using pulmonary agent as a wide used chemical weapon, it impossible to release the chemical agents on population without getting affected by its chemicals which will lead upon death. This is because the phosgene in gas state will spread through the air will be inhaled by the living organisms including plants. Since human and animals undergo inhalation to stay alive, these organisms are the major target for the reaction of the phosgene gas. This is because inhalation that will involve the respiratory system is the major route of the phosgene gas. All chemical weapons have its own way to kill and incapacitate lives. In conjunction with the hazardous of the chemical weapons, we have constructed a review article on the findings of the chemical weapon. Technically, our review on the topic of chemical weapon which is Phosgene as the choke agent or pulmonary agent would contribute a lot towards every layer of societies. Significantly, they get to know the hazard of chemical weapons especially when it is being exposed to the underage. So, they will avoid themselves from getting involved in anything regarding of chemical weapons which are hazardous for instance, warfare, rebelling and playing around with it. Aside from that, the application of chemistry in weapon will bit by bit increase the amount of death drastically within the years. In conjunction, every party will generate much effort and create a collaboration to avoid using chemical weapon just to achieve their vision and mission. Hence, this article review will acknowledge them to get rid of the chemical weapons since they will threaten innocent lives. Furthermore, the content in this article implement the knowledge that will let the society to find out that the pulmonary agents or other chemical weapons are not only used as a weapon but also can be used in chemical industry, protection or even pesticides.


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