Just got this via email, it's very informative.
Subject: Chemical Warfare - as told by an expert
This is a little long to read but it is the straight story on chemical warfare. Bottom line here is that we can easily survive such an attack and panic is totally unwarranted!
This was written by a retired Army sergeant first class and he seems to know what he is talking about, if anyone can show that he is off track, I sure would like to know about it.
This retired Army SFC wrote:
Since the media has decided to scare everyone with predictions of chemical,
biological, or nuclear warfare on our turf I decided to write a paper and keep things in their proper perspective. I am a retired military weapons, munitions, and training expert.
Lesson number one: In the mid 1990's there were a series of nerve gas attacks on crowded Japanese subway stations. Given perfect conditions for an attack less than 10% of the people there were injured (the injured were better in a few hours) and only one percent of the injured died. 60 Minutes once had a fellow telling us that one drop of nerve gas could kill a thousand people, well they didn't tell you the thousand dead people per drop was theoretical. Drill Sergeants exaggerate how terrible this stuff is to keep the recruits awake in class (I know this because I was a Drill Sergeant too).
Forget everything you've ever seen on TV, in the movies, or read in a novel about this stuff, it was all a lie (read this sentence again out loud!)!
These weapons are about terror, and if you remain calm, you will probably not die. This is far less scary than the media and their "Experts," make it sound.
Chemical weapons are categorized as Nerve, Blood, Blister, and Incapacitating agents. Contrary to the hype of reporters and politicians, they are not weapons of mass destruction. They are "Area denial," and terror weapons that don't destroy anything. When you leave the area you almost always leave the risk. That's the difference; you can leave the area and the risk; soldiers may have to stay put and sit through it and that's why they need all that spiffy gear. These are vapors and/or air borne particles. The agent must be delivered in sufficient quantity to kill/injure, and that defines when/how it's used.
Every day we have a morning and evening inversion where "stuff," suspended
in the air gets pushed down. This inversion is why allergies (pollen) and
air pollution are worst at these times of the day. So, a chemical attack
will have it's best effect an hour of so either side of sunrise/sunset.
Also, being vapors and airborne particles they are heavier than air so they
will seek low places like ditches, basements and underground garages. This
stuff won't work when it's freezing, it doesn't last when it's hot, and wind
spreads it too thin too fast. They've got to get this stuff on you, or, get
you to inhale it for it to work. They also have to get the concentration of
chemicals high enough to kill or wound you. Too little and it's nothing, too
much and it's wasted. What I hope you've gathered by this point is that a
chemical weapons attack that kills a lot of people is incredibly hard to do
with military grade agents and equipment so you can imagine how hard it will
be for terrorists. The more you know about this stuff the more you realize
how hard it is to use.
We'll start by talking about nerve agents. You have these in your house,
plain old bug killer (like Raid) is nerve agent. All nerve agents work the
same way; they are cholinesterase inhibitors that mess up the signals your
nervous system uses to make your body function. It can harm you if you get
it on your skin but it works best if they can get you to inhale it. If you
don't die in the first minute and you can leave the area you're probably
gonna live. The military's antidote for all nerve agents is atropine and
pralidoxime chloride. Neither one of these does anything to cure the nerve
agent, they send your body into overdrive to keep you alive for five
minutes, after that the agent is used up. Your best protection is fresh air
and staying calm.
Listed below are the symptoms for nerve agent poisoning.
Sudden headache, dimness of vision (someone you're looking at will have
pinpointed pupils), runny nose, excessive saliva or drooling, difficulty
breathing, tightness in the chest, nausea, stomach cramps, twitching of
exposed skin where a liquid just got on you. If you are in public and you
start experiencing these symptoms, first ask yourself, did anything out of
the ordinary just happen, a loud pop, did someone spray something on the
crowd? Are other people getting sick too? Is there an odor of new mown hay,
green corn, something fruity, or camphor where it shouldn't be? If the
answer is yes, then calmly (if you panic you breathe faster and inhale more
air/poison) leave the area and head up wind, or, outside. Fresh air is the
best "right now antidote".
If you have a blob of liquid that looks like molasses or Kayro syrup on you;
blot it or scrape it off and away from yourself with anything disposable.
This stuff works based on your body weight, what a crop duster uses to kill
bugs won't hurt you unless you stand there and breathe it in real deep, then
lick the residue off the ground for awhile. Remember they have to do all the
work, they have to get the concentration up and keep it up for several
minutes while all you have to do is quit getting it on you/quit breathing it
by putting space between you and the attack.
Blood agents are cyanide or arsine which effect your blood's ability to
provide oxygen to your tissue. The scenario for attack would be the same as
nerve agent. Look for a pop or someone splashing/spraying something and
folks around there getting woozy/falling down. The telltale smells are
bitter almonds or garlic where it shouldn't be. The symptoms are blue lips,
blue under the fingernails, & rapid breathing. The military's antidote is
amyl nitride and just like nerve agent antidote it just keeps your body
working for five minutes till the toxins are used up. Fresh air is the your
best individual chance.
Blister agents (distilled mustard) are so nasty that nobody wants to even
handle it let alone use it. It's almost impossible to handle safely and may
have delayed effect of up to 12 hours. The attack scenario is also limited
to the things you'd see from other chemicals. If you do get large, painful
blisters for no apparent reason, don't pop them. If you must, don't let the
liquid from the blister get on any other area, the stuff just keeps on
spreading. It's just as likely to harm the user as the target. Soap, water,
sunshine, and fresh air are this stuff's enemy.
Bottom line on chemical weapons (it's the same if they use industrial
chemical spills); they are intended to make you panic, to terrorize you, to
heard you like sheep to the wolves. If there is an attack, leave the area
and go upwind, or to the sides of the wind stream. They have to get the
stuff to you, and on you. You're more likely to be hurt by a drunk driver on
any given day than be hurt by one of these attacks. Your odds get better if
you leave the area.
Soap, water, time, and fresh air really deals a knock-out-punch. Don't let
fear of an isolated attack rule your life, odds are really on your side.
Nuclear bombs. These are the only weapons of mass destruction on earth. The
effects of a nuclear bomb are heat, blast, EMP, and radiation. If you see a
bright flash of light like the sun, where the sun isn't, fall to the ground!
The heat will be over in a second. Then there will be two blast waves, one
out-going, and one on it's way back. Don't stand up to see what happened
after the first wave; anything that's going to happen will have happened in
two full minutes. These will be low yield devices and will not level whole
cities. If you live through the heat, blast, and initial burst of radiation,
you'll probably live for a very very long time.
Radiation will not create fifty foot tall women, or giant ants and grass
hoppers the size of tanks. These will be at the most 1 kiloton bombs; that's
the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT. Here's the real deal, flying debris and
radiation will kill a lot of exposed (not all!) people within a half mile of
the blast. Under perfect conditions this is about a half mile circle of
death and destruction, but, when it's done it's done.. EMP stands for
Electro Magnetic Pulse and it will fry every electronic device for a good
distance, it's impossible to say what and how far but probably not over a
couple of miles from ground zero is a good guess. Cars, cell phones,
computers, ATMs, you name it, all will be out of order.
There are lots of kinds of radiation, you only need to worry about three,
the others you have lived with for years.
You need to worry about "Ionizing radiation," these are little sub atomic
particles that go fizzing along at the speed of light. They hit individual
cells in your body, kill the nucleus and keep on going. That's how you get
radiation poisoning, you have so many dead cells in your body that the
decaying cells poison you. It's the same as people getting radiation
treatments for cancer, only a bigger area gets radiated. The good news is
you don't have to just sit there and take it, and there's lots you can do
rather than panic. First; your skin will stop alpha particles, a page of a
news paper or your clothing will stop beta particles, you just gotta try and
avoid inhaling dust that's contaminated with atoms that are emitting these
things and you'll be generally safe from them.
Gamma rays are particles that travel like rays (quantum physics makes my
brain hurt) and they create the same damage as alpha and beta particles only
they keep going and kill lots of cells as they go all the way through your
body. It takes a lot to stop these things, lots of dense material. On the
other hand, it takes a lot of this to kill you. Your defense is as always to
not panic. Basic hygiene and normal preparation are your friends. All canned
or frozen food is safe to eat. The radiation poisoning will not effect
plants so fruits and vegetables are OK if there's no dust on em (rinse em
off if there is). If you don't have running water and you need to collect
rain water or use water from wherever, just let it sit for thirty minutes
and skim off the water gently from the top. The dust with the bad stuff in
it will settle and the remaining water can be used for the toilet which will
still work if you have a bucket of water to pour in the tank.
Finally there's biological warfare. There's not much to cover here. Basic
personal hygiene and sanitation will take you further than a million
doctors. Wash your hands often, don't share drinks, food, sloppy kisses,
etc., ... with strangers. Keep your garbage can with a tight lid on it,
don't have standing water (like old buckets, ditches, or kiddie pools)
laying around to allow mosquitoes breeding room. This stuff is carried by
vectors, that is bugs, rodents, and contaminated material. If biological
warfare is as easy as the TV makes it sound, why has Saddam Hussein spent
twenty years, millions, and millions of dollars trying to get it right? If
you're clean of person and home you eat well and are active you're gonna
Overall preparation for any terrorist attack is the same as you'd take for a
big storm. If you want a gas mask, fine, go get one. I know this stuff and
I'm not getting one and I told my Mom not to bother with one either (how's
that for confidence). We have a week's worth of cash, several days worth of
canned goods and plenty of soap and water. We don't leave stuff out to
attract bugs or rodents so we don't have them. These people can't conceive a
nation this big with this much resources. These weapons are made to cause
panic, terror, and to demoralize. If we don't run around like sheep they
won't use this stuff after they find out it's no fun. The government is
going nuts over this stuff because they have to protect every inch of
America. You've only gotta protect yourself, and by doing that, you help the
Finally, there are millions of caveats to everything I wrote here and you
can think up specific scenarios where my advice isn't the best. This letter
is supposed to help the greatest number of people under the greatest number
of situations. If you don't like my work, don't nit pick, just sit down and
explain chemical, nuclear, and biological warfare in a document around three
pages long yourself. This is how we the people of the United States can rob
these people of their most desired goal, your terror.
SFC Red Thomas (Ret) Armor Master Gunner Mesa