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Mustard Gas

December 6, 2010

Soldier in a gas mask for protection against mustard gas during WWI

Recently, I read an article on mustard gas and was very much intrigued. To start off, I would like to give you a little bit of background on the subject. Mustard gas was first used for chemical warfare during World War I. It was used by the Germans against both the British and French armies. Mustard gas is a lethal gas and also an alkylating agent, meaning its chemicals destroy DNA, cells, and can liquefy tissue. Although mustard gas is a lethal gas it doesn’t kill quickly and if you are only exposed to a small amount of the gas you have a good chance of survival. Thus ,the longer amount of time exposed, the greater the damage.

Symptoms of mustard gas usually don’t show for 24 hours and include:

  • Skin: The skin turns red and becomes extremely itchy and will start to make yellow blisters
  • Eyes: The eyes become irritated and turn red. They will burn and inflammation will occur
  • Respiratory system: The nose starts to bleed and or becomes running. Sneezing and coughing will occur. Also the throat becomes hoarse
  • Digestive system: Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea will occur along with a fever and vomiting

Soldier with mustard gas burns

Mustard gas is also known as a blister agent, which means that once it comes into contact with a victim it will start to damage skin and internal areas such as the mucous membranes inside the throat and nose. Mustard gas can come in the form of a vapor, liquid, or a solid. It is made up of four elements: carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, and sulfur. Its exact chemical formula is C4H8Cl12S.


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