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Technological Hazard – Chemical Warfare Event , (CBRNE – Sulfur Mustard gas susp): Iraq


Published Date: 2016-03-13 23:33:49
Subject: PRO/EDR> Chemical weapons – Iraq: sulfur mustard susp.
Archive Number: 20160313.4090543

Date: Sat 12 Mar 2016
Source: NY Times [edited]

Iraqi Officials: IS Chemical Attacks Kill Child, Wound 600

The Islamic State group has launched 2 chemical attacks near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing a 3-year-old girl, wounding some 600 people and causing hundreds more to flee, Iraqi officials said Saturday.

Security and hospital officials say the latest attack took place early Saturday in the small town of Taza, which was also struck by a barrage of rockets carrying chemicals 3 days earlier.

“There is fear and panic among the women and children,” said Adel Hussein, a local official in Taza. “They’re calling for the central government to save them.” Hussein said a German and an American forensics team arrived in the area to test for the presence of chemical agents.

The wounded are suffering from infected burns, suffocation and dehydration, said Helmi Hamdi, a nurse at the Taza hospital. He said e8 people were transferred to Baghdad for treatment.

U.S. and Iraqi officials said U.S. special forces captured the head of the IS unit trying to develop chemical weapons in a raid last month in northern Iraq.

The U.S.-led coalition said the chemicals IS has so far used include chlorine and a low-grade sulfur mustard which is not very potent. “It’s a legitimate threat. It’s not a high threat. We’re not, frankly, losing too much sleep over it,” U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters Friday.

The coalition began targeting IS’ chemical weapons infrastructure with airstrikes and special operations raids 2 months ago, Iraqi intelligence officials and a Western security official in Baghdad told the AP.

Airstrikes are targeting laboratories and equipment, and further special forces raids targeting chemical weapons experts are planned, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

The extremist group is believed to have set up a special unit for chemical weapons research made up of Iraqi scientists who worked on weapons programs under Saddam Hussein as well as foreign experts.

The group is believed to have created limited amounts of mustard gas. Tests confirmed mustard gas was used in a town in Syria when IS was launching attacks there in August 2015. There have been other unverified reports of IS using chemical agents on battlefields in Syria and Iraq.

Communicated by:

[This is a horrible situation, and is exceptionally painful to those who are exposed, most often unsuspecting civilians. Mustard gas leaves scars, and the blistering on the skin is very painful. Since it can cause blistering and pain in mucus membranes, consider the pain of blisters in the nose, or oral cavity, or in the commissures or canthus (corners) of the eye or under the eyelids.

While this may be classified as “low-grade sulfur mustard which is not very potent” it is nevertheless potent enough to kill a person, and cause 8 to be transported to Baghdad, and likely many more people are suffering from this attack. It is very sad to hear some one talk about this chemical attack and the suffering of these people as “.. a legitimate threat. It’s not a high threat. We’re not, frankly, losing too much sleep over it.” This seems pretty callous in the face of the suffering of infected burns, suffocation and dehydration, pain, fear, and emotional loss of a child.

Some photos of the effects of mustard gas may be found at

This article does not mention if this was powdered mustard, possibility indicating it is being manufactured.

Mustard gas, or sulfur mustard (Cl-CH2CH2)2S, is a chemical agent that causes severe burning of the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. It can be absorbed into the body through inhalation, ingestion, or by coming into contact with the skin or eyes.

First used during World War I, the gas is effective at incapacitating its victims en masse. Sulfur mustard is generally colorless in its gaseous state, though it may have a faint yellow or green tint. It is most easily recognized by its trademark “mustardy” odor, though some compare its smell to that of garlic, horseradish, or sulfur.

The gas is a vesicant, or blister-agent, causing redness and itching of the skin resulting in yellow, pus-filled blisters. Because mustard gas strips away the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and respiratory tract, victims may also experience irritation of the eyes, temporary blindness, runny nose, cough, shortness of breath, and sinus pain. The digestive tract is also affected, resulting in abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.

Unlike chemical nerve agents such as organophosphates or sarin gas, which immediately incapacitate victims, mustard gas victims typically do not exhibit symptoms of poisoning until 12 to 24 hours after exposure. However, higher concentrations of the gas can cause symptoms to develop within 1-2 hours.

Exposure to mustard gas is usually not lethal and most victims recover from their symptoms within several weeks. Some, however, remain permanently disfigured as a result of chemical burns or are rendered permanently blind. Others develop chronic respiratory diseases or infections, which can be fatal. And because mustard gas damages the DNA in human cells, recovered victims are at greater risk for developing certain cancers. Pregnant women exposed to the gas have an increased risk of delivering a baby with birth defects or cancer.

If sulfur mustard is released into the air as a vapor, people can be exposed through skin contact, eye contact, or breathing. Sulfur mustard vapor can be carried long distances by wind.

If sulfur mustard is released into water, people can be exposed by drinking the contaminated water or getting it on their skin. People can be exposed to liquid sulfur mustard by eating it or getting it on their skin.

Sulfur mustard can last from 1-2 days in the environment under average weather conditions and from weeks to months under very cold conditions.

Sulfur mustard breaks down slowly in the body, so repeated exposure may have a cumulative effect. Adverse health effects caused by sulfur mustard depend on the quantity, duration, and route of exposure.

Sulfur mustard is a powerful irritant and blistering agent that damages the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. Sulfur mustard damages DNA, a vital component of cells in the body, especially in the bone marrow. This causes decreased formation of blood cells (aplastic anemia) or decreased red or white blood cells and platelets (pancytopenia).

Sulfur mustard vapor is heavier than air, so it will settle in low-lying areas.

Exposure to sulfur mustard usually is not fatal. When sulfur mustard was used during World War I, it killed fewer than 5 per cent of the people who were exposed and got medical care. People may not know right away that they have been exposed, because sulfur mustard may not have a smell or may have a smell that might not cause alarm. Typically, signs and symptoms do not occur immediately. Depending on the severity of the exposure, symptoms may not occur for up to 24 hours. Some people are more sensitive to sulfur mustard than are other people, and may have signs and symptoms sooner.

Sulfur mustard can have the following effects on specific parts of the body:

Skin: redness and itching of the skin may occur 2 to 48 hours after exposure and may eventually change to yellow blistering of the skin.

Eyes: irritation, pain, swelling, and tearing may occur within 3 to 12 hours of a mild to moderate exposure. A severe exposure may cause signs and symptoms within 1-2 hours and may include the symptoms of a mild or moderate exposure plus light sensitivity, severe pain, or blindness lasting up to 10 days.

Respiratory tract: runny nose, sneezing, hoarseness, bloody nose, sinus pain, shortness of breath, and cough within 12 to 24 hours of a mild exposure and within 2 to 4 hours of a severe exposure.
Digestive tract: abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Bone marrow: decreased formation of blood cells (aplastic anemia) or decreased red or white blood cells and platelets (pancytopenia) leading to weakness, bleeding, and infections.

Showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has been exposed to sulfur mustard.

Portions of this comment have been extracted from and – Mod.TG

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:]

See Also


Chemical weapons – Syria (04): (HL) mustard gas, susp 20151107.3773595
Chemical weapons – Syria: (03) mustard gas, susp. 20150904.3625263
Chemical weapons – Syria: (02) mustard gas susp 20150826.3602420
Chemical weapons – Iraq, Syria: chlorine gas, confirmed use 20150718.3520170
Chemical weapons – Syria: chlorine gas, alleged use 20150620.3449320
Chemical weapons – Iraq: chlorine gas exp 20150313.3227032
Chemical weapons, sarin, mustard gas – Libya: controlled by ISIS 20150228.3199627

Chemical weapons – Iraq: chlorine gas 20141030.2913879
Chemical weapons – Syria (03): chlorine gas susp 20140525.2496768
Chemical weapons – Syria (02): increased stillbirths & congenital abnormalities 20140514.2472785
Chemical weapons – Syria: suspected attack, RFI 20140414.2402387
Chemical weapon destruction – Libya 20140216.2281640

Chemical weapons – Germany: (ST) WWII site, alert 20131026.2021211
Chemical weapons – Syria (09): U.N. report, sarin conf. 20130916.1948586
Chemical weapons – Syria (08): USA response 20130904.1917433
Chemical weapons – Syria (07) 20130825.1900325
Chemical weapons – Syria (06): suspect attack, RFI 20130821.1892712
Chemical weapons – Syria (05): sarin 20130615.1774393
Chemical weapons – Syria (04): sarin 20130606.1757059
Chemical weapons – Syria (03): sarin 20130605.1755498
Chemical weapons – Syria (02): investigation 20130321.1597374
Chemical weapons – Syria: claims of civilian losses 20130320.1595751

Chemical weapons – Syria: alert 20110825.2590

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