Treatment of Chemical Warfare Casualties

10.27.16 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

“Chemical warfare agents remain a significant and continuing threat to military forces,” according to a newly updated manual jointly issued by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Islamic State fighters in Iraq set fire to a chemical factory south of Mosul, Pentagon spokesmen said last week, generating a cloud of sulfur dioxide that passed over a U.S. base in the region. (“Islamic State Burns Sulfur Stocks Near Mosul, Creating Hazard for Troops, Locals,” Wall Street Journal, October 22.)

“Sulfur dioxide is injurious to the eyes and to the respiratory tract, where it acts primarily as a central pulmonary toxicant at low to moderate doses, but may also exhibit peripheral effects (pulmonary edema) at high doses,” explained the newly released manual, which also discussed protection, diagnosis and treatment for SO2 exposure. See Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for Treatment of Chemical Warfare Agent Casualties and Conventional Military Chemical Injuries, ATP 4-02.85, August 2016.

Another new Pentagon publication described the role of the role of the U.S. military in responding to, and mitigating, the effects of unconventional weapons and hazardous materials, whether induced deliberately or accidentally. See Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Response, Joint Publication 3-41, September 9, 2016.