Los Angeles, CA (December 9th, 2011) Terrorist attacks with chemical weapons are a real possibility, according to a study that appears in the online open access journal, Journal of Pharmacy Practice, published by SAGE. Thanks to their extensive knowledge of toxic agents, and how to treat those who have been exposed, pharmacists are an invaluable resource in the event of an actual or potential chemical weapons attack.
Chemical weapons act on their victims through a number of mechanisms. They include nerve agents, chemicals that cause blistering (vesicants), choking agents, incapacitating agents, riot control agents, blood agents, and toxic industrial chemicals. With their knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, toxicology, and therapeutics, pharmacists are a valuable asset to health care facilities and government agencies planning for the unthinkable a terrorist attack with chemical weapons.
In his article, clinical pharmacist and forensic pharmacologist Peter D. Anderson details the clinical effects chemical weapons, and their treatment. Nerve agents work by blocking the actions of acetyl cholinesterase (the chemistry involved is similar to how many pesticides kill). These toxins include sarin, tabun, VX, cyclosarin, and soman. Vesicants like sulfur mustard and lewisite produce blisters and damage the upper airways. Choking agents, which cause fluid to build up in the lungs (pulmonary edema), include phosgene and chlorine gas.
Incapacitating agents are temporary and "non-lethal," and include fentanyl and adamsite. Mace and pepper spray are familiar riot control methods. Blood agents include cyanide, which works by blocking oxidative phosphorylation in the body. Toxic industrial chemicals such as formaldehyde, hydrofluoric acid, and ammonia also merit consideration as terrorist weapons.
"Potential chemical weapons are in no way limited to the traditional agents that we think of as chemical weapons,"
|Contact: Ashley Loar|