Sulfur mustard
Overview
 
The sulfur mustards, or sulphur mustards, commonly known as mustard gas, are a class of related cytotoxic, vesicant chemical warfare agents with the ability to form large blister
Blister
A blister is a small pocket of fluid within the upper layers of the skin, typically caused by forceful rubbing , burning, freezing, chemical exposure or infection. Most blisters are filled with a clear fluid called serum or plasma...

s on exposed skin. Pure sulfur mustards are colorless, viscous liquids at room temperature. However, when used in impure form, such as warfare agents, they are usually yellow-brown
Tawny (color)
Tawny is a yellowish brown color. The word means "tan-colored," from Anglo-Norman tauné "associated with the brownish-yellow of tanned leather," from Old French tané "to tan hides," from Medieval Latin tannare, from tannum "crushed oak bark," used in tanning leather, probably from a Celtic source...

 in color and have an odor resembling mustard plant
Mustard plant
Mustards are several plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis whose small mustard seeds are used as a spice and, by grinding and mixing them with water, vinegar or other liquids, are turned into the condiment known as mustard or prepared mustard...

s, garlic
Garlic
Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo. Dating back over 6,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent...

 or horseradish
Horseradish
Horseradish is a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli, and cabbages. The plant is probably native to south eastern Europe and the Arab World , but is popular around the world today...

, hence the name.
Encyclopedia
The sulfur mustards, or sulphur mustards, commonly known as mustard gas, are a class of related cytotoxic, vesicant chemical warfare agents with the ability to form large blister
Blister
A blister is a small pocket of fluid within the upper layers of the skin, typically caused by forceful rubbing , burning, freezing, chemical exposure or infection. Most blisters are filled with a clear fluid called serum or plasma...

s on exposed skin. Pure sulfur mustards are colorless, viscous liquids at room temperature. However, when used in impure form, such as warfare agents, they are usually yellow-brown
Tawny (color)
Tawny is a yellowish brown color. The word means "tan-colored," from Anglo-Norman tauné "associated with the brownish-yellow of tanned leather," from Old French tané "to tan hides," from Medieval Latin tannare, from tannum "crushed oak bark," used in tanning leather, probably from a Celtic source...

 in color and have an odor resembling mustard plant
Mustard plant
Mustards are several plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis whose small mustard seeds are used as a spice and, by grinding and mixing them with water, vinegar or other liquids, are turned into the condiment known as mustard or prepared mustard...

s, garlic
Garlic
Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo. Dating back over 6,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent...

 or horseradish
Horseradish
Horseradish is a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli, and cabbages. The plant is probably native to south eastern Europe and the Arab World , but is popular around the world today...

, hence the name. Mustard gas was originally assigned the name LOST, after the scientists Lommel and Steinkopf
Wilhelm Steinkopf
Georg Wilhelm Steinkopf was a German chemist. Today he is mostly remembered for his work on the production of mustard gas during World War I.-Life:...

, who developed a method for the large-scale production of the agent for the German Army
German Army (German Empire)
The German Army was the name given the combined land forces of the German Empire, also known as the National Army , Imperial Army or Imperial German Army. The term "Deutsches Heer" is also used for the modern German Army, the land component of the German Bundeswehr...

 in 1916.

Mustard agents are regulated under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention
Chemical Weapons Convention
The Chemical Weapons Convention is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction...

 (CWC). Three classes of chemicals are monitored under this Convention, with sulfur and nitrogen mustard grouped in Schedule 1, as substances with no use other than chemical warfare
Chemical warfare
Chemical warfare involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from Nuclear warfare and Biological warfare, which together make up NBC, the military acronym for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical...

. Mustard agents can be deployed on the battlefield via spraying from aircraft, or more typically by means of air-dropped bombs or artillery shells.

Synthesis

Sulfur mustard is the organic compound
Organic compound
An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon. For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon, and cyanides, as well as the...

 described with the formula
Chemical formula
A chemical formula or molecular formula is a way of expressing information about the atoms that constitute a particular chemical compound....

 (Cl-CH2CH2)2S. In the Depretz method, sulfur mustard is synthesized by treating sulfur dichloride
Sulfur dichloride
Sulfur dichloride is the chemical compound with the formula SCl2. This cherry-red liquid is the simplest sulfur chloride and one of the most common. It is used as a precursor to organosulfur compounds.-Chlorination of sulfur:...

 with ethylene
Ethylene
Ethylene is a gaseous organic compound with the formula . It is the simplest alkene . Because it contains a carbon-carbon double bond, ethylene is classified as an unsaturated hydrocarbon. Ethylene is widely used in industry and is also a plant hormone...

:
SCl2 + 2 C2H4 → (Cl-CH2CH2)2S

In the Meyer method, thiodiglycol
Thiodiglycol
Thiodiglycol, or bissulfide , is a viscous, clear to pale-yellow liquid used as a solvent. Its chemical formula is 4102, or HOCH2CH2SCH2CH2OH. It is miscible with acetone, alcohols, and chloroform...

 is produced from chloroethanol and potassium sulfide
Potassium sulfide
Potassium sulfide is the inorganic compound with the formula K2S. The colourless solid is rarely encountered, because it reacts readily with water, a reaction that affords potassium bisulfide and potassium hydroxide .-Structure:...

 and chlorinated with phosphorus trichloride
Phosphorus trichloride
Phosphorus trichloride is a chemical compound of phosphorus and chlorine, having chemical formula PCl3. Its shape is trigonal pyramidal. It is the most important of the three phosphorus chlorides. It is an important industrial chemical, being used for the manufacture of organophosphorus compounds...

:
3 (HO-CH2CH2)2S + 2 PCl3 → 3 (Cl-CH2CH2)2S + 2 P(OH)3

In the Meyer-Clarke method, concentrated hydrochloric acid
Hydrochloric acid
Hydrochloric acid is a solution of hydrogen chloride in water, that is a highly corrosive, strong mineral acid with many industrial uses. It is found naturally in gastric acid....

 (HCl) instead of PCl3 is used as the chlorinating agent:2S + 2 HCl → (Cl-CH2CH2)2S + 2 H2O
Thionyl chloride
Thionyl chloride
Thionyl chloride is an inorganic compound with the formula SOCl2. It is a reactive chemical reagent used in chlorination reactions. It is a colorless, distillable liquid at room temperature and pressure that decomposes above 140 °C. Thionyl chloride is sometimes confused with sulfuryl...

 and phosgene
Phosgene
Phosgene is the chemical compound with the formula COCl2. This colorless gas gained infamy as a chemical weapon during World War I. It is also a valued industrial reagent and building block in synthesis of pharmaceuticals and other organic compounds. In low concentrations, its odor resembles...

 have also been used as chlorinating agents.

It is a viscous liquid at normal temperatures. The pure compound has a melting point of 14 °C (57 °F) and decomposes before boiling at 218 °C (424.4 °F).

Mechanism of toxicity

The compound readily eliminates a chloride
Chloride
The chloride ion is formed when the element chlorine, a halogen, picks up one electron to form an anion Cl−. The salts of hydrochloric acid HCl contain chloride ions and can also be called chlorides. The chloride ion, and its salts such as sodium chloride, are very soluble in water...

 ion by intramolecular nucleophilic substitution
Nucleophilic substitution
In organic and inorganic chemistry, nucleophilic substitution is a fundamental class of reactions in which an electron nucleophile selectively bonds with or attacks the positive or partially positive charge of an atom or a group of atoms called the leaving group; the positive or partially positive...

 to form a cyclic sulfonium
Sulfonium
A sulfonium ion, also known as sulphonium ion or sulfanium ion, is a positively charged ion featuring three organic substituents attached to sulfur. They have the formula [SR3]+...

 ion. This very reactive intermediate tends to permanently alkylate
Alkylating antineoplastic agent
An alkylating antineoplastic agent is an alkylating agent used in cancer treatment that attaches an alkyl group to DNA.The alkyl group is attached to the guanine base of DNA, at the number 7 nitrogen atom of the purine ring....

 the guanine
Guanine
Guanine is one of the four main nucleobases found in the nucleic acids DNA and RNA, the others being adenine, cytosine, and thymine . In DNA, guanine is paired with cytosine. With the formula C5H5N5O, guanine is a derivative of purine, consisting of a fused pyrimidine-imidazole ring system with...

 nucleotide
Nucleotide
Nucleotides are molecules that, when joined together, make up the structural units of RNA and DNA. In addition, nucleotides participate in cellular signaling , and are incorporated into important cofactors of enzymatic reactions...

 in DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 strands, which prevents cellular division and generally leads directly to programmed cell death
Apoptosis
Apoptosis is the process of programmed cell death that may occur in multicellular organisms. Biochemical events lead to characteristic cell changes and death. These changes include blebbing, cell shrinkage, nuclear fragmentation, chromatin condensation, and chromosomal DNA fragmentation...

, or, if cell death is not immediate, the damaged DNA may lead to the development of cancer. Sulfur mustard is not very soluble in water but is very soluble in fat, contributing to its rapid absorption into the skin.


In the wider sense, compounds with the structural element BCH2CH2X, where X is any leaving group
Leaving group
In chemistry, a leaving group is a molecular fragment that departs with a pair of electrons in heterolytic bond cleavage. Leaving groups can be anions or neutral molecules. Common anionic leaving groups are halides such as Cl−, Br−, and I−, and sulfonate esters, such as para-toluenesulfonate...

 and B is a Lewis base are known as mustards. Such compounds can form cyclic "onium" ions (sulfonium
Sulfonium
A sulfonium ion, also known as sulphonium ion or sulfanium ion, is a positively charged ion featuring three organic substituents attached to sulfur. They have the formula [SR3]+...

, ammonium
Ammonium
The ammonium cation is a positively charged polyatomic cation with the chemical formula NH. It is formed by the protonation of ammonia...

s, etc.) that are good alkylating agents. Examples are bis(2-chloroethyl)ether, the (2-haloethyl)amines (nitrogen mustard
Nitrogen mustard
The nitrogen mustards are cytotoxic chemotherapy agents similar to mustard gas. Although their common use is medicinal, in principle these compounds can also be deployed as chemical warfare agents. Nitrogen mustards are nonspecific DNA alkylating agents. Nitrogen mustard gas was stockpiled by...

s), and sulfur sesquimustard, which has two α-chloroethyl thioether groups (ClH2C-CH2-S-) connected by an ethylene (-CH2CH2-) group. These compounds have a similar ability to alkylate DNA, but their physical properties, e.g. melting point, vary.

Physiological effects

Mustard gas has extremely powerful vesicant effects on its victims. In addition, it is strongly mutagen
Mutagen
In genetics, a mutagen is a physical or chemical agent that changes the genetic material, usually DNA, of an organism and thus increases the frequency of mutations above the natural background level. As many mutations cause cancer, mutagens are therefore also likely to be carcinogens...

ic and carcinogen
Carcinogen
A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer. This may be due to the ability to damage the genome or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes...

ic, due to its alkylating properties. It is also lipophilic
Lipophilic
Lipophilicity, , refers to the ability of a chemical compound to dissolve in fats, oils, lipids, and non-polar solvents such as hexane or toluene. These non-polar solvents are themselves lipophilic — the axiom that like dissolves like generally holds true...

. Because people exposed to mustard gas rarely suffer immediate symptoms, and mustard-contaminated areas may appear completely normal, victims can unknowingly receive high dosages. However, within 24 hours of exposure to mustard agent, victims experience intense itching and skin irritation, which gradually turns into large blisters filled with yellow fluid wherever the mustard agent contacted the skin. These are chemical burn
Chemical burn
A chemical burn occurs when living tissue is exposed to a corrosive substance such as a strong acid or base. Chemical burns follow standard burn classification and may cause extensive tissue damage. The main types of irritant and/or corrosive products are: acids, bases, oxidizers, solvents,...

s and are very debilitating. Mustard gas vapour easily penetrates clothing fabrics such as wool or cotton, so it is not only the exposed skin of victims that gets burned. If the victim's eyes were exposed then they become sore, starting with conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis refers to inflammation of the conjunctiva...

, after which the eyelids swell, resulting in temporary blindness. According to the Medical Management of Chemical Casualties handbook, there have been experimental cases in humans where the patient has suffered miosis
Miosis
Miosis is the constriction of the pupil of the eye to two millimeters or less...

, or pinpointing of pupils, as a result of the cholinomimetic activity of mustard. At very high concentrations, if inhaled, mustard agent causes bleeding and blistering within the respiratory system
Respiratory system
The respiratory system is the anatomical system of an organism that introduces respiratory gases to the interior and performs gas exchange. In humans and other mammals, the anatomical features of the respiratory system include airways, lungs, and the respiratory muscles...

, damaging mucous membrane
Mucous membrane
The mucous membranes are linings of mostly endodermal origin, covered in epithelium, which are involved in absorption and secretion. They line cavities that are exposed to the external environment and internal organs...

s and causing pulmonary edema
Pulmonary edema
Pulmonary edema , or oedema , is fluid accumulation in the air spaces and parenchyma of the lungs. It leads to impaired gas exchange and may cause respiratory failure...

. Depending on the level of contamination, mustard gas burns can vary between first and second degree burns, though they can also be every bit as severe, disfiguring and dangerous as third degree burns. Severe mustard gas burns (i.e. where more than 50% of the victim's skin has been burned) are often fatal, with death occurring after some days or even weeks have passed. Mild or moderate exposure to mustard agent is unlikely to kill, though victims invariably require lengthy periods of medical treatment and convalescence
Convalescence
Convalescence is the gradual recovery and of health and strength after illness. It refers to the later stage of an infectious disease or illness when the patient recovers and returns to normal, but may continue to be a source of infection even if feeling better...

 before recovery is complete. The mutagenic and carcinogenic effects of mustard agent mean that victims who recover from mustard gas burns have an increased risk of developing cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 in later life.

Skin damage can be reduced if povidone-iodine, (Betadine
Betadine
Povidone-iodine is a stable chemical complex of polyvinylpyrrolidone and elemental iodine. It contains from 9.0% to 12.0% available iodine, calculated on a dry basis....

), in a base of glycofurol is rapidly applied, but since mustard agent initially has no symptoms, exposure is usually not recognised until skin irritation begins, at which point it is too late for countermeasures. The vesicant property of mustard gas can be neutralised by oxidation or chlorination
Chlorination
Chlorination is the process of adding the element chlorine to water as a method of water purification to make it fit for human consumption as drinking water...

, using household bleach (sodium hypochlorite), or by nucleophilic attack using e.g. decontamination solution "DS2" (2% NaOH, 70% diethylenetriamine, 28% ethylene glycol monomethyl ether) can be used. After initial decontamination of the victim's wounds is complete, medical treatment is similar to that required by any conventional burn. The amount of pain and discomfort suffered by the victim is comparable as well. Mustard gas burns heal slowly, and, as with other types of burn, there is a risk of sepsis
Sepsis
Sepsis is a potentially deadly medical condition that is characterized by a whole-body inflammatory state and the presence of a known or suspected infection. The body may develop this inflammatory response by the immune system to microbes in the blood, urine, lungs, skin, or other tissues...

 caused by pathogen
Pathogen
A pathogen gignomai "I give birth to") or infectious agent — colloquially, a germ — is a microbe or microorganism such as a virus, bacterium, prion, or fungus that causes disease in its animal or plant host...

s such as Staphylococcus aureus
Staphylococcus aureus
Staphylococcus aureus is a facultative anaerobic Gram-positive coccal bacterium. It is frequently found as part of the normal skin flora on the skin and nasal passages. It is estimated that 20% of the human population are long-term carriers of S. aureus. S. aureus is the most common species of...

 and Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common bacterium that can cause disease in animals, including humans. It is found in soil, water, skin flora, and most man-made environments throughout the world. It thrives not only in normal atmospheres, but also in hypoxic atmospheres, and has, thus, colonized many...

.

A British nurse treating soldiers with mustard gas burns during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 commented:

Formulations

In its history, various types and mixtures of sulfur mustard have been employed. These include:
  • H – Also known as HS ("Hun Stuff") or Levinstein mustard. This is named after the inventor of the quick but dirty Levinstein Process for manufacture, reacting dry ethylene
    Ethylene
    Ethylene is a gaseous organic compound with the formula . It is the simplest alkene . Because it contains a carbon-carbon double bond, ethylene is classified as an unsaturated hydrocarbon. Ethylene is widely used in industry and is also a plant hormone...

     with sulfur monochloride
    Disulfur dichloride
    Disulfur dichloride is the chemical compound with the formula S2Cl2 . Some alternative names for this compound are sulfur monochloride , disulphur dichloride and sulphur monochloride...

     under controlled conditions. Undistilled sulfur mustard contains 20–30% impurities, for which reason it does not store as well as HD. Also, as it decomposes, it increases in vapor pressure
    Vapor pressure
    Vapor pressure or equilibrium vapor pressure is the pressure of a vapor in thermodynamic equilibrium with its condensed phases in a closed system. All liquids have a tendency to evaporate, and some solids can sublimate into a gaseous form...

    , making the munition it is contained in likely to split, especially along a seam, thus releasing the agent to the atmosphere

  • HD – Codenamed Pyro by the British, and Distilled Mustard by the US. Distilled
    Distillation
    Distillation is a method of separating mixtures based on differences in volatilities of components in a boiling liquid mixture. Distillation is a unit operation, or a physical separation process, and not a chemical reaction....

     sulfur mustard (bis(2-chloroethyl) sulfide); approximately 96% pure. The term "mustard gas" usually refers to this variety of sulfur mustard. A much-used path of synthesis was based upon the reaction of thiodiglycol
    Thiodiglycol
    Thiodiglycol, or bissulfide , is a viscous, clear to pale-yellow liquid used as a solvent. Its chemical formula is 4102, or HOCH2CH2SCH2CH2OH. It is miscible with acetone, alcohols, and chloroform...

     with hydrochloric acid
    Hydrochloric acid
    Hydrochloric acid is a solution of hydrogen chloride in water, that is a highly corrosive, strong mineral acid with many industrial uses. It is found naturally in gastric acid....

    .
  • HT – Codenamed Runcol by the British, and Mustard T- mixture by the US. A mixture of 60% sulfur mustard (HD) and 40% T (bis[2-(2-chloroethylthio)ethyl] ether), a related vesicant with lower freezing point
    Freezing Point
    Freezing Point is a news journal in the People's Republic of China which has been the subject of controversy over its criticism of Communist Party officials and the sympathetic ear it lent to a Chinese historian who had criticized official history textbooks...

    , lower volatility
    Volatility (chemistry)
    In chemistry and physics, volatility is the tendency of a substance to vaporize. Volatility is directly related to a substance's vapor pressure. At a given temperature, a substance with higher vapor pressure vaporizes more readily than a substance with a lower vapor pressure.The term is primarily...

     and similar vesicant characteristics).
  • HL – A blend of distilled mustard (HD) and Lewisite
    Lewisite
    Lewisite is an organoarsenic compound, specifically an arsine. It was once manufactured in the U.S. and Japan as a chemical weapon, acting as a vesicant and lung irritant...

     (L), originally intended for use in winter conditions due to its lower freezing point compared to the pure substances. The Lewisite component of HL was used as a form of antifreeze
    Antifreeze
    Antifreeze is a freeze preventive used in internal combustion engines and other heat transfer applications, such as HVAC chillers and solar water heaters....

    .
  • HQ – A blend of distilled mustard (HD) and sesquimustard (Q) (Gates and Moore 1946).

Sulfur mustard agents (class)

The complete list of effective sulfur mustard agents commonly stock-piled is as follows:
Chemical Code Trivial name CAS Number PubChem Structure
Bis(2-chloroethyl)sulfide H/HD Mustard 505-60-2
1,2-Bis-(2-chloroethylthio)-ethane Q Sesquimustard 3563-36-8
Bis-(2-chloroethylthioethyl)-ether T O-mustard 63918-89-8
2-Chloroethyl chloromethyl sulfide 2625-76-5
Bis-(2-chloroethylthio)-methane HK 63869-13-6
Bis-1,3-(2-chloroethylthio)-n-propane 63905-10-2
Bis-1,4-(2-chloroethylthio)-n-butane 142868-93-7
Bis-1,5-(2-chloroethylthio)-n-pentane 142868-94-8
Bis-(2-chloroethylthiomethyl)-ether 63918-90-1

Development

Mustard gas was possibly developed as early as 1822 by César-Mansuète Despretz
César-Mansuète Despretz
César-Mansuète Despretz was a chemist and physicist, b. at Lessines, Belgium, 11 May 1798; d. at Paris, 11 May 1863. He was Chaire de physique at the Faculté des sciences in Paris.*...

 (1798–1863). Despretez described the reaction of sulfur dichloride
Sulfur dichloride
Sulfur dichloride is the chemical compound with the formula SCl2. This cherry-red liquid is the simplest sulfur chloride and one of the most common. It is used as a precursor to organosulfur compounds.-Chlorination of sulfur:...

 and ethylene
Ethylene
Ethylene is a gaseous organic compound with the formula . It is the simplest alkene . Because it contains a carbon-carbon double bond, ethylene is classified as an unsaturated hydrocarbon. Ethylene is widely used in industry and is also a plant hormone...

 but never made mention of any irritating properties of the reaction product, which makes the claim doubtful. In 1854, another French chemist Alfred Riche (1829–1908) repeated the procedure but did not describe any adverse physiological properties. In 1860, British scientist Frederick Guthrie
Frederick Guthrie
Frederick Guthrie was a British scientific writer and professor. He helped found the Physical Society of London in 1874 and was president of the society from 1884-1886. He believed that science should be based on experimentation rather than discussion...

 synthesized and characterized the compound, and he also noted its irritating properties, especially in tasting. In 1886, chemist Albert Niemann
Albert Niemann (chemist)
Albert Friedrich Emil Niemann was a German chemist. In 1859 - about the same time as Paolo Mantegazza - he isolated cocaine, and he published his finding in 1860.-Life:...

, known as a pioneer in cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 chemistry, repeated the reaction, but, this time, blister-forming properties were recorded. In 1886, Viktor Meyer
Viktor Meyer
Viktor Meyer was a German chemist and significant contributor to both organic and inorganic chemistry. He is best known for inventing an apparatus for determining vapour densities, the Viktor Meyer apparatus, and for discovering thiophene, a heterocyclic compound...

 published a paper describing a synthesis that produced good yields. He reacted 2-chloroethanol
2-Chloroethanol
2-Chloroethanol is an organochlorine compound with the formula HOCH2CH2Cl. This colorless liquid has a pleasant ether-like odor. It is miscible with water...

 with aqueous potassium sulfide
Potassium sulfide
Potassium sulfide is the inorganic compound with the formula K2S. The colourless solid is rarely encountered, because it reacts readily with water, a reaction that affords potassium bisulfide and potassium hydroxide .-Structure:...

 and treated the resulting thiodiglycol
Thiodiglycol
Thiodiglycol, or bissulfide , is a viscous, clear to pale-yellow liquid used as a solvent. Its chemical formula is 4102, or HOCH2CH2SCH2CH2OH. It is miscible with acetone, alcohols, and chloroform...

 with phosphorus trichloride
Phosphorus trichloride
Phosphorus trichloride is a chemical compound of phosphorus and chlorine, having chemical formula PCl3. Its shape is trigonal pyramidal. It is the most important of the three phosphorus chlorides. It is an important industrial chemical, being used for the manufacture of organophosphorus compounds...

. The purity of this compound was much higher and the adverse health effects on exposure, as a consequence, much more severe. These symptoms presented themselves in an assistant, and, in order to rule out that the assistant was suffering from a mental illness (psychosomatic symptoms), Meyer had the compound tested on rabbits, which then died. In 1913, English chemist Hans Thacher Clarke
Hans Thacher Clarke
Hans Thacher Clarke was one of the world's leading biochemists.His father, Joseph Thacher Clarke, was an archaeologist who was friendly with George Eastman of the Kodak company...

 (of Eschweiler-Clarke
Eschweiler-Clarke reaction
The Eschweiler–Clarke reaction is a chemical reaction whereby a primary amine is methylated using excess formic acid and formaldehyde. Reductive amination reactions such as this one will not produce quaternary ammonium salts, but instead will stop at the tertiary amine stage...

 fame) replaced phosphorus trichloride with hydrochloric acid
Hydrochloric acid
Hydrochloric acid is a solution of hydrogen chloride in water, that is a highly corrosive, strong mineral acid with many industrial uses. It is found naturally in gastric acid....

 in Meyer's recipe while working with Emil Fischer
Hermann Emil Fischer
Hermann Emil Fischer, Emil Fischer was a German chemist and 1902 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He discovered the Fischer esterification. He developed the Fischer projection, a symbolic way of drawing asymmetric carbon atoms.-Early years:Fischer was born in Euskirchen, near Cologne,...

 in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

. Clarke was hospitalized for 2 months for burns after a flask broke, and, according to him, Fischer's subsequent report on this incident to the German Chemical Society set Germany on the chemical weapons track. Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 relied on the Meyer-Clarke method with a 2-chloroethanol
2-Chloroethanol
2-Chloroethanol is an organochlorine compound with the formula HOCH2CH2Cl. This colorless liquid has a pleasant ether-like odor. It is miscible with water...

 infrastructure already in place in the dye
Dye
A dye is a colored substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied. The dye is generally applied in an aqueous solution, and requires a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber....

 industry of that time.

Use

Mustard gas was first used effectively in World War I by the German army against British soldiers near Ypres
Ypres
Ypres is a Belgian municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the villages of Boezinge, Brielen, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Hollebeke, Sint-Jan, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke, and Zuidschote...

 in 1917 and later also against the French Second Army. The name Yperite comes from its usage by the German army near the city of Ypres. The Allies did not use the gas until November 1917 at Cambrai
Cambrai
Cambrai is a commune in the Nord department in northern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.Cambrai is the seat of an archdiocese whose jurisdiction was immense during the Middle Ages. The territory of the Bishopric of Cambrai, roughly coinciding with the shire of Brabant, included...

, after they captured a large stock of German mustard-filled shells. It took the British over a year to develop their own mustard gas weapon (their only option was the Despretz–Niemann–Guthrie process), first using it in September 1918 during the breaking of the Hindenburg Line
Hindenburg Line
The Hindenburg Line was a vast system of defences in northeastern France during World War I. It was constructed by the Germans during the winter of 1916–17. The line stretched from Lens to beyond Verdun...

.

Mustard gas was dispersed as an aerosol in a mixture with other chemicals, giving it a yellow-brown color and a distinctive odour. Mustard gas has also been dispersed in such munitions as aerial bomb
Aerial bomb
An aerial bomb is a type of explosive weapon intended to travel through the air with predictable trajectories, usually designed to be dropped from an aircraft...

s, land mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

s, mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

 rounds, artillery shells, and rocket
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

s. Mustard gas was lethal in only about 1% of cases; its effectiveness was as an incapacitating agent
Incapacitating agent
The term incapacitating agent is defined by the U.S. Department of Defense asLethal agents are primarily intended to kill, but incapacitating agents can also kill if administered in a potent enough dose, or in certain scenarios....

. Countermeasures against the gas were relatively ineffective, since a soldier wearing a gas mask
Gas mask
A gas mask is a mask put on over the face to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne pollutants and toxic gases. The mask forms a sealed cover over the nose and mouth, but may also cover the eyes and other vulnerable soft tissues of the face. Some gas masks are also respirators, though the word...

 was not protected against absorbing it through the skin.

Furthermore, mustard gas was a persistent agent which would remain in the environment for days and continue to cause sickness. If mustard gas contaminated a soldier's clothing and equipment, then other soldiers he came into contact with would also be poisoned. Towards the end of the war it was even used in high concentrations as an area-denial weapon
Area denial weapons
An area denial weapon is a device used to prevent an adversary from occupying or traversing an area of land. The specific method used does not have to be totally effective in preventing passage as long as it is sufficient to severely restrict, slow down, or endanger the opponent...

, which often forced soldiers to abandon heavily contaminated positions.

Since then, mustard gas has also been reportedly used in several wars, often where those it is used against cannot retaliate:
  • United Kingdom
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

     against the Red Army
    Red Army
    The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

     in 1919
  • Spain
    Spain
    Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

     and France
    France
    The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

     against Rif
    Rif
    The Rif or Riff is a mainly mountainous region of northern Morocco, with some fertile plains, stretching from Cape Spartel and Tangier in the west to Ras Kebdana and the Melwiyya River in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the river of Wergha in the south.It is part of the...

     insurgents in Morocco
    Morocco
    Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

     in 1921–1927
  • Italy
    Italy
    Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

     in Libya
    Libya
    Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

     in 1930
  • Soviet Union
    Soviet Union
    The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

     in Xinjiang
    Xinjiang
    Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

    , Republic of China
    Republic of China
    The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

     during the Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang
    Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang
    The Soviet invasion of Xinjiang was a military campaign in the Chinese northwestern region of Xinjiang in 1934. White Russian forces assisted the Soviet Red Army.- Background :...

     against the 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army)
    36th Division (National Revolutionary Army)
    The 36th Division was a cavalry division in the National Revolutionary Army. It was created in 1932 by the Kuomintang for General Ma Zhongying, who was also its first commander. It was made almost entirely out of Hui Muslim troops, all of its officers were Hui, with a few thousand Uighurs forced...

     in 1934 and in the Xinjiang War (1937)
    Xinjiang War (1937)
    In 1937, an Islamic rebellion broke out in southern Xinjiang. The rebels were 1,500 Uighurs and Tungans led by Kichik Akhund, against the pro-Soviet provincial forces of Sheng Shicai.- Start of rebellion :...

     in 1936–1937
  • Italy
    Italy
    Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

     against Abyssinia
    Second Italo-Abyssinian War
    The Second Italo–Abyssinian War was a colonial war that started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire...

     (now Ethiopia
    Ethiopia
    Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

    ) from 1935 to 1940
  • Germany against Poland and the Soviet Union in a few incidents during the Second World War
  • Poland
    Poland
    Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

     against Germany
    Germany
    Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

     in 1939 during an isolated incident, British product
  • Japan
    Japan
    Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

     against China
    China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

     in 1937–1945
  • Egypt
    Egypt
    Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

     against North Yemen
    North Yemen
    North Yemen is a term currently used to designate the Yemen Arab Republic , its predecessor, the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen , and their predecessors that exercised sovereignty over the territory that is now the north-western part of the state of Yemen in southern Arabia.Neither state ever...

     in 1963–1967
  • Iraq
    Iraq
    Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

     against Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

     and Kurds in 1983–1988
  • Possibly Sudan
    Sudan
    Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

     against insurgents in the civil war, in 1995 and 1997
  • Australia
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

     against Germany
    Germany
    Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

     in September 1918


In 1943, during the Second World War, a U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 stockpile exploded aboard a supply ship that was bombed in an air raid
Air Raid on Bari
The air raid on Bari was an air attack by German bombers on Allied forces and shipping in Bari, Italy on 2 December 1943 during World War II. In the attack, 105 German Junkers Ju 88 bombers of Luftflotte 2, achieving complete surprise, bombed shipping and personnel operating in support of the...

 in the harbor of Bari
Bari
Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, eventually killing 83 of the 628 hospitalized military victims who were exposed to the mustard gas. The deaths and incident were partially classified for many years.

From 1943 to 1944, mustard gas experiments were performed on United States Military prisoners in tropical Queensland
Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

 by British and U.S. Army experimenters, resulting in severe injuries. One test site, Brook Island
Brook Islands National Park
The Brook Islands National Park is a national park in Queensland, Australia, 1246 km northwest of Brisbane, with an area of 0.9 km². It was established in 1994 and comprises three islands - North, Tween and Middle - which lie off the coast 7 km north-east of Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island...

, was chosen to simulate Japanese-held Pacific islands.

The use of poison gas, including mustard gas, during warfare, a practice known as chemical warfare
Chemical warfare
Chemical warfare involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from Nuclear warfare and Biological warfare, which together make up NBC, the military acronym for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical...

, was prohibited by the Geneva Protocol of 1925
Geneva Protocol
The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, usually called the Geneva Protocol, is a treaty prohibiting the first use of chemical and biological weapons. It was signed at Geneva on June 17, 1925 and entered...

 and the subsequent Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993
Chemical Weapons Convention
The Chemical Weapons Convention is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction...

, which also prohibits the development, production and stockpiling of such weapons.

Development of the First Chemotherapy Drug

As early as 1919 it was known that mustard gas was a suppressor of hematopoiesis. Additionally, autopsies on 75 soldiers who had died of mustard gas in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 were done by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania who reported decreased white blood cell counts. This led to the US's Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) to fund Yale University to conduct research on the chemical warfare agents during World War II. As a part of this effort, the group investigated Nitrogen mustard
Nitrogen mustard
The nitrogen mustards are cytotoxic chemotherapy agents similar to mustard gas. Although their common use is medicinal, in principle these compounds can also be deployed as chemical warfare agents. Nitrogen mustards are nonspecific DNA alkylating agents. Nitrogen mustard gas was stockpiled by...

 as a therapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma
Hodgkin's lymphoma
Hodgkin's lymphoma, previously known as Hodgkin's disease, is a type of lymphoma, which is a cancer originating from white blood cells called lymphocytes...

 and other types of lymphoma
Lymphoma
Lymphoma is a cancer in the lymphatic cells of the immune system. Typically, lymphomas present as a solid tumor of lymphoid cells. Treatment might involve chemotherapy and in some cases radiotherapy and/or bone marrow transplantation, and can be curable depending on the histology, type, and stage...

 and leukemia
Leukemia
Leukemia or leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called "blasts". Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases...

 and the compound was tried on its first human patient in December of 1942. The results of this study weren't published until 1946 after being declassified. In a parallel track, after the Air Raid on Bari
Air Raid on Bari
The air raid on Bari was an air attack by German bombers on Allied forces and shipping in Bari, Italy on 2 December 1943 during World War II. In the attack, 105 German Junkers Ju 88 bombers of Luftflotte 2, achieving complete surprise, bombed shipping and personnel operating in support of the...

 in December 1943, the Army's doctors noted that white blood cell counts were reduced in exposed patients. Because the fact that the Allies had chemical munitions in the area was potentially embarrassing, the incident was classified until after the war was over.

After World War II was over the Bari incident and the Yale group's work with nitrogen mustard
Nitrogen mustard
The nitrogen mustards are cytotoxic chemotherapy agents similar to mustard gas. Although their common use is medicinal, in principle these compounds can also be deployed as chemical warfare agents. Nitrogen mustards are nonspecific DNA alkylating agents. Nitrogen mustard gas was stockpiled by...

 eventually converged prompting a search for other similar compounds. Due to its use in previous studies, the nitrogen mustard known as "HN2" became the first chemotherapy
Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with an antineoplastic drug or with a combination of such drugs into a standardized treatment regimen....

 drug mustine.

Disposal

Most of the sulfur mustard found in Germany after World War II was dumped into the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

. Between 1966 and 2002, fishermen have found around 700 chemical weapons in the Bornholm
Bornholm
Bornholm is a Danish island in the Baltic Sea located to the east of the rest of Denmark, the south of Sweden, and the north of Poland. The main industries on the island include fishing, arts and crafts like glass making and pottery using locally worked clay, and dairy farming. Tourism is...

 region, most of which contained sulfur mustard. One of the more frequently dumped weapons was the "Sprühbüchse 37" (SprüBü37, Spray Can 37, 1937 being the year of its fielding with the German Army). These weapons contain sulfur mustard mixed with a thickener, which renders it a tarlike viscosity. When the content of the SprüBü37 comes in contact with water, only the sulfur mustard in the outer layers of the lumps of viscous mustard hydrolyses
Hydrolysis
Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction during which molecules of water are split into hydrogen cations and hydroxide anions in the process of a chemical mechanism. It is the type of reaction that is used to break down certain polymers, especially those made by condensation polymerization...

, leaving amber-coloured residues that still contain most of the active sulfur mustard. On mechanically breaking these lumps, e.g., with a fishing net's drag board or with the hands, the enclosed sulfur mustard is still as active as it had been at the time the weapon was dumped. These lumps, when washed ashore, can be mistaken for amber
Amber
Amber is fossilized tree resin , which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. Amber is used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewelry. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents...

, which can lead to severe health problems. Shell
Shell (projectile)
A shell is a payload-carrying projectile, which, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage sometimes includes large solid projectiles properly termed shot . Solid shot may contain a pyrotechnic compound if a tracer or spotting charge is used...

s containing sulfur mustard and other toxic ammunition from World War I (as well as conventional explosives) can still occasionally be found in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

; they used to be disposed of by explosion at sea, but current environmental regulations prohibit this and so the French government is building an automated factory to dispose of the backlog of shells.

In 1972, the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 banned the practice of disposing chemical weapons into the ocean. However, 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents had already been dumped into the ocean waters off the United States by the U.S. Army. According to a 1998 report created by William Brankowitz, a deputy project manager in the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, the Army created at least 26 chemical weapons dump sites in the ocean off at least 11 states on both the west and east coasts (Operation CHASE
Operation CHASE
Operation CHASE was a United States Department of Defense program that involved the disposal of unwanted munitions at sea from May 1964 into the early 1970s....

, Operation Geranium
Operation Geranium
Operation Geranium was a U.S. Army mission that dumped more than 3,000 tons of the chemical agent lewisite into the ocean off the Florida coast in 1948.-Operation:...

, etc.). Additionally because of poor records, they currently only know the rough whereabouts of half of them.

A significant portion of the stockpile
Stockpile (military)
In military preparation, to stockpile is to move materiel, personnel, and command and control infrastructure to a suitable location in preparation for deployment, or to move such materials into the theatre of war in preparation for combat....

 of mustard agent in the United States was stored at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground
Aberdeen Proving Ground
Aberdeen Proving Ground is a United States Army facility located near Aberdeen, Maryland, . Part of the facility is a census-designated place , which had a population of 3,116 at the 2000 census.- History :...

 in Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

. Approximately 1,621 short ton
Ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

s of mustard agent was stored in one-ton (907.2 kg) containers on the base under heavy guard. A disposal plant built on site neutralized the last of this stockpile in February 2005. This stockpile had priority because of the potential for quick reduction of risk to the community. The closest schools were fitted with overpressurization units to protect the students and staff in the event of a catastrophic explosion and fire at the site. These projects, as well as planning, equipment, and training assistance, were provided to the surrounding community as a part of the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP), a joint US Army and Federal Emergency Management Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, initially created by Presidential Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1978 and implemented by two Executive Orders...

 program. Unexploded shells containing mustard agent and other chemical agents are still present in several test ranges in proximity to Edgewood area schools, but the smaller amounts (4–14 pounds; 2–6 kg) present considerably less risk. They are being systematically detected and excavated for disposal. There are several other sites in the United States where the remaining U.S. stockpiles of chemical agents are awaiting destruction in compliance with international chemical weapons treaties; the largest mustard agent stockpile, approximately 6,196 short ton
Ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

s, was stored at the Deseret Chemical Depot
Deseret Chemical Depot
The Deseret Chemical Depot is a U.S. Army chemical weapon storage area located in Utah, 60 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. It is related to the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility.-History:...

 in Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

. Destruction of this stockpile began in 2006. As of May 2011, the last ton container of mustard agent was destroyed at the Utah site and none remains. U.S. mustard agent and other chemical agent storage is managed by the US Army's Chemical Materials Agency. The Chemical Materials Agency (CMA)
United States Army Chemical Materials Agency
The United States Army Chemical Materials Agency is a major sub-command of the United States Army Materiel Command and a reporting element of the United States Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. Its role is to enhance national security by securely storing...

 manages disposal operations at five of the remaining seven stockpile sites, located in Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

, Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

, Utah, and Oregon
Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

; disposal projects at the other two sites, located in Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

 and Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

, are managed by the U.S. Army Element, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA).

In 2008, many mustard gas bombs (empty) were recovered in an excavation at the Marrangaroo Army Base west of Sydney, Australia. In 2009, a mining survey near Chinchilla
Chinchilla, Queensland
Chinchilla is a town in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia. At the 2006 census, Chinchilla had a population of 3,681.The town was established in 1877...

, Queensland
Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

 uncovered 144 105mm Howitzer
Howitzer
A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

 shells, some containing Mustard H, buried by the US Army during World War II. In 2010, a clamming vessel pulled up World War I munition shells from the waters south of Long Island. Multiple crewmembers became symptomatic with skin blistering and respiratory irritation severe enough to require hospitalization. This was the first instance of occupational non-military mustard gas exposure in the United States.

A large British stockpile of mustard gas that had been manufactured and stored at Rhydymwyn, Wales, since the war was destroyed in 1958.

Detection in biological fluids

Urinary concentrations of the thiodiglycol hydrolysis products of sulfur mustard have been used to confirm a diagnosis of chemical poisoning in hospitalized victims. The presence in urine of 1,1'-sulfonylbismethylthioethane (SBMTE), a conjugation product with glutathione, is considered a more specific marker, since this metabolite is not found in specimens from unexposed persons. Intact sulfur mustard was detected in postmortem fluids and tissues of a man who died one week post-exposure.

See also

  • Blister agent
    Blister agent
    A blister agent, or vesicant, is a chemical compound that causes severe skin, eye and mucosal pain and irritation. They are named for their ability to cause severe chemical burns, resulting in painful water blisters on the bodies of those affected...

  • Chemical warfare
    Chemical warfare
    Chemical warfare involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from Nuclear warfare and Biological warfare, which together make up NBC, the military acronym for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical...

  • Chlorine gas
  • Lewisite
    Lewisite
    Lewisite is an organoarsenic compound, specifically an arsine. It was once manufactured in the U.S. and Japan as a chemical weapon, acting as a vesicant and lung irritant...

  • Mustard Gas Manufacture in UK
    M. S. Factory, Valley
    The M.S. Factory, Valley was a Second World War site in the United Kingdom that was used for the storage and production of mustard gas. It was later also used in the development of the UK's atomic bomb project...

  • Nitrogen mustard
    Nitrogen mustard
    The nitrogen mustards are cytotoxic chemotherapy agents similar to mustard gas. Although their common use is medicinal, in principle these compounds can also be deployed as chemical warfare agents. Nitrogen mustards are nonspecific DNA alkylating agents. Nitrogen mustard gas was stockpiled by...

  • Phosgene oxime
    Phosgene oxime
    Phosgene oxime, or CX, is an organic compound with the formula Cl2CNOH. It is a potent chemical weapon, specifically a nettle agent. The compound itself is a colorless solid, but impure samples are often yellowish liquids...

  • Poison gas in World War I
    Poison gas in World War I
    The use of chemical weapons in World War I ranged from disabling chemicals, such as tear gas and the severe mustard gas, to lethal agents like phosgene and chlorine. This chemical warfare was a major component of the first global war and first total war of the 20th century. The killing capacity of...

  • Yellow Cross (chemical warfare)
    Yellow Cross (chemical warfare)
    Yellow Cross is a World War I chemical warfare agent usually based on sulfur mustard .The original Gelbkreuz was a composition of 80-90% of sulfur mustard and 10-20% of tetrachloromethane or chlorobenzene as a solvent which lowered its viscosity and acted as an antifreeze, or, alternatively, 80%...



External links

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