Por Manuel Cereijo


What Is It?

Categorized as a blister agent, mustard gas refers to several manufactured chemicals - many used in household products - that don't occur naturally in the environment. Sulfur mustard is among them.

Mustard gas is really a liquid and is not likely to change into a gas immediately if it is released at ordinary temperatures. As a pure liquid, it is colorless and odorless, but when mixed with other chemicals, it looks brown and has a garlic-like smell.

Mustard gas was used in chemical warfare and was made in large amounts during World Wars I and II. It was reportedly used in the Iran-Iraq war in 1984-1988. It's presently used in the United States for research purposes. The U.S. Secretary of Defense was instructed to destroy all remaining stocks of lethal military chemical agents, including mustard gas, by 1997.

Mustard gas has been a favorite chemical weapon in wars because it can be fairly easily delivered via conventional bombs, rockets and artillery shells and because mustard gas contamination can render an area unusable by enemy forces.

Experts say making mustard gas is easier than making nerve gases but harder than weaponizing industrial chemicals such as chlorine. It would take vastly more mustard gas than nerve gas to kill the same number of people, limiting mustard gas' appeal to terrorists.

What Are the Symptoms of Exposure?

Mustard gas can burn skin, cause blisters and cause respiratory effects, such as coughing and bronchitis. Higher levels may cause death. It is also more harmful to the skin on hot, humid days, or in tropical climates. Mustard gas makes the eyes burn, eyelids swell and causes a person exposed to blink a lot. Skin exposure can cause second- to third-degree burns.

If one breathes mustard gas, it can cause coughing, bronchitis and long-term respiratory disease. If one is exposed to a large amount of mustard gas, victims can eventually die from it. Symptoms appear one to six hours after exposure. Mustard gas also attacks a cell's DNA, so it can cause cancer and birth defects.


Sarin, a colorless and odorless gas, has a lethal dose of 0.5 milligram for an adult. It is 26 times more deadly than cyanide gas and is 20 times more lethal than potassium cyanide. Just 0.01 milligram per kilogram of body weight a pinprick sized droplet will kill a human. The vapor is slightly heavier than air, so it hovers close to the ground. Under wet and humid weather conditions sarin degrades swiftly, but as the temperature rises up to a certain point, sarin's lethal duration increases, despite the humidity.

Mankind has always searched for more and more powerful weapons, whether it be a bigger rock to throw a better quality bow and arrow or musket or a more powerful bomb. Obviously this century it has been explosives of one kind or another. More specifically the tendency has been for more powerful missiles or aerial bombs this race reached its height when the nuclear bomb was invented the power of these bombs were so supremely powerful that the target would be of no use to anyone after the explosion due to the damage and contamination. So as a result the search for weapons that would kill the enemy but leave the surrounding area undamaged and any contamination short lived. Chemical and Biological weapons were the answer to these problems. Chemical weapons have been around in less sophisticated forms for decades, they were used quite extensively in the first world war but took the form of simple gasses such as chlorine and mustard gas. In this day and age the current crop of chemical weapons are far more dangerous and well researched.

Among the most dangerous chemical weapons are the so called nerve gasses or nerve agents, nerve agents have entirely dominated chemical warfare since the Second World War. Nerve agents acquired their name because they affect the transmission of nerve impulses in the nervous system. All nerve agents belong chemically to the group of organo-phosphorus compounds. They are stable and easily dispersed, highly toxic and have rapid effects both when absorbed through the skin and via respiration. Nerve agents can be manufactured by means of fairly simple chemical techniques. The raw materials are inexpensive and generally readily available. This makes them even more dangerous as they can be made by any irresponsible mind with a decent laboratory.


Este y otros excelentes artículos del mismo AUTOR aparecen en la REVISTA GUARACABUYA con dirección electrónica de:

Las credenciales específicas del columnista Ingeniero Manuel Cereijo están descritas para información del lector su en:

Éste y otros excelentes artículos del mismo AUTOR aparecen en la REVISTA GUARACABUYA con dirección electrónica de: