TREATING A NERVE AGENT CASUALTY
Section I. SELF-AID
Chemical agents are intended for use in military operations. They are designed
to kill or incapacitate personnel due to the chemical effects of the agent. Chemical
agents may be inhaled, ingested when food or water contaminated by the agent is
consumed, or absorbed when the agent comes into contact with the skin or eyes.
Nerve agents are among the deadliest chemical agents.
a. World War I. Chemical agents such as mustard gas and chlorine gas were
used in World War I.
b. World War II. Germany developed nerve agents before the start of World
War II. However, Germany did not use them in warfare, probably because the German
military was afraid that the Allies would launch chemical agent attacks against Germany
if they did. In the closing days of the war, the United States and its allies discovered
these stockpiles, developed the agents, and manufactured nerve agent munitions,
especially Sarin (GB) and VX. Today, intelligence analysts indicate that many countries
have the technology to manufacture nerve agent munitions.
c. Nerve Agents. Nerve agents are the most toxic of known chemical agents.
Nerve agents directly affect the human nervous system. If the person is exposed to a
sufficient amount of nerve agent (either high concentrations for a short period of time or
low concentrations over a longer period of time), the diaphragm and the intercostal
muscles of the chest become paralyzed. The paralysis of these muscles results in the
casualty not being able to inhale and exhale. Respiratory failure leads to cardiac arrest
(1) Nerve agents are hazards in their liquid and vapor states and can cause
death within minutes after exposure. Nerve agents can be dispersed from artillery
shells, mortar shells, missiles, rockets, aircraft bombs, howitzer shells, spray tanks, land
mines, and other large munitions. In general, nerve agents are colorless, odorless, and
(2) Nerve agents are considered military threat agents. The only known
battlefield use of nerve agents was during the Iran-Iraq conflict.
(3) In 1994 and 1995, nerve agents were used for terrorism in Japan when
a terrorist cult dispersed Sarin nerve agent in a Tokyo subway. These incidents
produced thousands of casualties.