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Chemical warfare has a long history that may have reached its zenith during World War I with the battlefield use of chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gases. More recently, Iraq used chemical agents in its war with Iran and against its own Kurdish population. In 1995, Aum Shinrikyo, a terrorist cult, released the nerve agent sarin in the Tokyo subway system during rush hour. It is also alleged that nerve agents were used in Syria.

Chemical warfare agents are divided into groups largely on the basis of their mechanism of toxicity (Table II–64): nerve agents, vesicants or blister agents, blood agents or cyanides, choking agents, and incapacitating agents. Presenting symptoms and the clinical circumstances may help identify the agent and lead to effective treatment as well as proper decontamination.


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