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Technological Hazard – Chemical Warfare Event , (CBRNE – Chlorine, Sarin gas, Blistering agent): Syria


Published Date: 2017-03-05 18:53:59
Subject: PRO/EDR> Chemical weapons – Syria: chlorine, sarin gas, blistering agent
Archive Number: 20170305.4880039

Date: Fri 3 Mar 2017
Source: World Health Organization [edited]

Following the reported use of chemical weapons agents in East Mosul, Iraq, WHO, partners and local health authorities have activated an emergency response plan to safely treat men, women and children who may be exposed to the highly toxic chemicals.

Since 1 Mar 2017, 12 patients including women and children with respiratory symptoms and blistering have been received for treatment by a referral hospital in Erbil, according to local health authorities. Of these, 4 patients are showing severe signs associated with exposure to a blister agent. WHO and partners are working with health authorities in Erbil to provide support in managing these patients.

Since the beginning of the Mosul crisis, WHO has been taking concrete steps to ensure preparedness for the potential use of chemical weapons, together with local health authorities. As part of a chemical weapons contingency plan, WHO experts have trained more than 120 clinicians and provided them with equipment to safely decontaminate and stabilise patients before they are referred to pre-identified hospitals for further care. Field decontamination and contaminated patient stabilization are built into all field hospitals, and referral systems to pre-identified hospitals are in place.

WHO is extremely alarmed by the use of chemical weapons in Mosul, where innocent civilians are already facing unimaginable suffering as a result of the ongoing conflict.

The use of chemical weapons is a war crime and is prohibited in a series of international treaties. These include the Hague Declaration concerning Asphyxiating Gases, the 1925 Geneva Protocol, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Communicated by:

Date: Wed 1 Mar 2017
Source: The Guardian [edited]

The United Nations issued a report on 1 Mar 2017 that said that there was conclusive evidence that Syrian forces had dropped toxic industrial chemicals, including chlorine, on opposition communities throughout the last year (2016), causing hundreds of casualties. It did not attribute blame on Russian forces, which — along with Iran — helped turn the tide for Assad soon after Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s intervention in September 2015.

On Tuesday [28 Feb 2017], Russia used its veto for a 7th time to protect Syria from UN security council sanctions over allegations of chemical weapons use throughout the 6-year war. Syrian forces have repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons, including sarin, the nerve agent that killed an estimated 1300 people in the opposition-held area of Ghouta, near Damascus, in August 2013.

Western intelligence officials believe that sarin was again used last December (2016) in the eastern Hama region, an area held by ISIS, which days earlier had seized the historic city of Palmyra for a 2nd time.

At least 92 people were killed and about 300 left incapacitated by airstrikes in 5 small villages, medical organisations confirmed. However, unlike the attacks near Damascus, intelligence agencies were unable to retrieve biological samples, from either the blood of victims or contaminated soil.

Vladimir Safronov, the deputy Russian envoy to the UN, said Moscow was skeptical of the results of a joint investigation — in which it had participated — which found that Syrian government forces had carried out at least 3 chlorine gas attacks. It also found that ISIS had been responsible for at least one attack involving mustard gas.

Communicated by:

[“How chlorine works:
– The extent of poisoning caused by chlorine depends on the amount of chlorine a person is exposed to, how the person was exposed, and the length of time of the exposure.
– When chlorine gas comes into contact with moist tissues such as the eyes, throat, and lungs, an acid is produced that can damage these tissues.

Immediate signs and symptoms of chlorine exposure
– During or immediately after exposure to dangerous concentrations of chlorine, the following signs and symptoms may develop:
– Blurred vision
– Burning pain, redness, and blisters on the skin if exposed to gas. Skin injuries similar to frostbite can occur if it is exposed to liquid chlorine
– Burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes
– Coughing
– Chest tightness
– Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. These may appear immediately if high concentrations of chlorine gas are inhaled, or they may be delayed if low concentrations of chlorine gas are inhaled.
– Fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) that may be delayed for a few hours [This may be what was referred to in the articles as “bloody foaming from the mouth.
– Nausea and vomiting
– Watery eyes
– Wheezing

What the long-term health effects are
– Long-term complications may occur after breathing in high concentrations of chlorine. Complications are more likely to be seen in people who develop severe health problems such as fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) following the initial exposure.”

Sarin gas (O-Isopropyl methylphosphonofluoridate),
also called GB, is one of the most dangerous and toxic chemicals known. It belongs to a class of chemical weapons known as nerve agents, all of which are organophosphates. The G nerve agents, including tabun, sarin and soman, are all extremely toxic, but not very persistent in the environment. Pure sarin is a colorless and odorless gas, and since it is extremely volatile, and can spread quickly through the air. A lethal dose of sarin is about 0.5 milligrams; it is approximately 500 times more deadly than cyanide.

After exposure to sarin, symptoms begin within minutes. If a person survives for a few hours after exposure, he or she will likely recover from the poisoning. The 1st symptoms of sarin poisoning include a runny nose, blurred vision, sweating, and muscle twitches. Longer exposures result in tightness of the chest, headache, cramps, nausea, vomiting, involuntary defecation and urination, convulsions, coma, and respiratory arrest.

Atropine acts an antidote for nerve agents, including sarin. Atropine binds to one type of acetylcholine receptor on the post-synaptic nerve. A 2nd antidote is pralidoxime iodide (2-PAM), which blocks sarin from binding to any free acetyl-cholinesterase. Both should be administered as soon as possible following exposure to the toxin. Diazapam can also be used to prevent seizures and convulsions. Soldiers fighting in regions where chemical weapons are likely to be deployed are now equipped with a Mark I antidote kit containing both atropine and 2-PAM.”

The term blistering agents in the 1st article is somewhat non-descript. However, sulphur mustard has been used in Syria in the past. It is likely that this is what was used. However, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

“Blister agents”
Blister agents, or vesicants, are one of the most common CW agents. These oily substances act via inhalation and contact with skin. They affect the eyes, respiratory tract, and skin, first as an irritant and then as a cell poison. As the name suggests, blister agents cause large and often life-threatening skin blisters which resemble severe burns. Examples include: sulfur mustard (H, HD), nitrogen mustard (HN), lewisite (L) and phosgene oxime (CX). Mustard agents and lewisite are the best known.

Blister agents were 1st tested in combat in 1917 by Germany and have been used in several conflicts since, notably in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). They are primarily dispersed in liquid or vapour (aerosol) form and may persist for days. Like phosgene, mustard agents have a delayed effect. Deaths typically only represent a small percentage of the casualties they cause. Exposure to blister agents often results in blindness and permanent damage to the respiratory system.

Portions of this comment have been extracted from:

Readers are referred to the chart on for a more in-depth explanation of what sarin gas can do to the body.

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

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

See Also

Chemical weapons – Iraq: sulfur mustard susp. 20160313.4090543

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

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

UN policies on Chemical Weapons

Weapons of Mass Destruction…

Resolution 1540
Counter-Terrorism Strategy
CBW Use Investigations
Measures to Prevent Terrorists from Acquiring WMD
CWC Treaty and Status
OPCW site
1925 Geneva Protocol
Export Controls

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