Chemical and Biological Weapons

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James Ferguson

Prof. Brown

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Chemical and Biological Weapons
Chemical and biological weapons share similar aspects to one another, but they also have characteristics that greatly separate them. Similarities will include the purpose they have in common, the type of transportation system, and the neutralization of these weapons through the use of vaccines. Several differences include their characteristics, the type of weapon each chemical and biological agent uses, the reaction time between the weapons, and the use of these weapons in warfare.

Biological and chemical weapons share a taste for devastation on a massive scale. Weapons that exhibit this type of power become known as weapons of mass destruction. The Article,“How Biological and Chemical Warfare Works”, explains how the killing of thousands of people by biological and chemical weapons compares with the killing power of the nuclear bomb (Brain and Nasr). Steps have been taken to prevent such atrocities from occurring like the formation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use of biological and chemical weapons in warfare (U.S. Department of State). Even with these precautions, countries are still prone to being a victim of chemical or biological warfare because they ignore the policy put in place.

Weapons of such magnitude need a way of spreading from person to person. Chemical and biological weapons are spread through a variety of different ways such as becoming airborne, injected into the water supply, and even through food. According to Brain and Nasr, an airborne agent is the most deadly because everyone breathes in oxygen from the atmosphere and wind currents could even carry the pathogen to other parts of the world and in turn infecting others as well (Brain and Nasr). They also suggest that the reason for choosing air transportation is because it is feared the most. Steps are being taken to circumvent the spread of biological and chemical weapons.

Brain and Nasr mention in their article that the US has developed preventive measures to combat chemical and biological weapon effects such as installing sensors across various cities to detect them, stockpiling vaccines, and developing new drugs and vaccines (Brain and Nasr). According to Vaccines 101 by Alia Hoyt, she states that “vaccinations are largely viewed as the most successful medical advancement in the history of public health” (Hoyt). Smallpox has been eradicated thanks to the CDC who successfully developed a vaccine and distributed it in 1977. Steps are being taken to combating biological and chemical weapons such as developing vaccines for diseases such as anthrax and polio.

What separates biological and chemical weapons is that biological weapons use organic life while chemical weapons are manufactured usually in a lab. Chemical and biological weapons were implemented during World War I in which chlorine gas and mustard gas was used. Many soldiers had to wear gas masks to prevent breathing it in and cattle were also poisoned to damage the enemy food supply (“biological weapon”). This was later abolished with the formation of the Geneva Protocol in 1925 (U.S. Department of State). Brain and Nasr in their article “How Biological and Chemical Warfare Works”, state that “The unfortunate problem is that terrorists and rogue leaders don't pay attention to significant internationaltreaties” (Brain and Nasr). This is seen today in some parts of the world where conflict is abundant for example, in the Middle East.

Chemical weapons, such as Sarin, are nerve agents that enter the body and cause muscles to contract by interrupting them. This is caused by blocking Cholinesterase which in turn lead to suffocation and death by acetylcholine. Cyclosarin is deadlier than Sarin, it works the same way but causes you to die within minutes whereas Sarin takes roughly 5-12 hours (Brain and Nasr 4). VX is a liquid form Sarin which is deadlier than Cylosarin and Sarin combined. It is very hard to control and you would have to wear waterproof, airtight suit with a gas mask to be protected from it (Brain and Nasr). These are all manufactured toxins that have been developed within the last 60 years.

Biological weapons include ebola, anthrax, pneumonic plague, and smallpox. Ebola takes about a week to kill a victim which has to be through direct contact. Anthrax is caused by a bacterium that forms a spore that gets into the lungs and reproduces eventually forming a deadly toxin. Pneumonic Plague creates a bacteria that forms in the lungs and can become contagious by coughing or sneezing. Smallpox is a virus that is highly contagious and kills quickly, vaccinations have eradicated the disease, and however there is still no treatment for the disease (Brain and Nasr).

The speed of biological weapons are much slower and have more of a lasting effect. They can last for a long time which can spread the infection at an alarming rate. Some benefits to a slow process is the time necessary to develop a vaccine. However the speed of chemical weapons are quite frightening and have a killing rate much greater than biological weapons but are less likely to spread among a population (Brain and Nasr).These agents are still deadly against a population and pose a greater risk if spread among a population.

Within the last 100 years, biological and chemical warfare has become a new killing factor to take into consideration. Biological warfare has been seen in several instances, such as coming in mailboxes after September 11, 2001. The FBI codenamed this “Amerithrax”, after letters sent to peoples mailboxes in the U.S. were laced with anthrax. Methods in scientific research eventually put an end to the case. In total five Americans were killed and seventeen were sickened (Federal Bureau of Investigation). This became one of the worst biological attacks in U.S. history.

Chemical warfare in history has been seen in several instances including WW1, and the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was the name in the Vietnam War for the chemical warfare being used there. It was an herbicidal technique which destroyed many of the trees and crops in Vietnam during the 1960s (Agent Orange). The United States sprayed about 19 million gallons of herbicide into 4 million acres to combat the North Vietnamese troops by destroying their cover and crops.

Overall, chemical and biological weapons share a singular trait and that is causing devastation. This ended up explaining the similarities and differences between biological and chemical weapons which can become frightening because of the way it is transmitted and its killing power upon a population. Science and technology are key to combating this because figuring out how these work is detrimental to developing a vaccination and eventually a cure which can put an end to biological and chemical weapons in warfare.

Works Cited

Brain, Marshall and Susan, Nasr.  "How Biological and Chemical Warfare Works”. 27 September 2001. Web. 06 April 2015.

U.S. Department of State. “Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (Geneva Protocol)”. Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation. 17 June 1925. Web. 06 April 2015.

Hoyt, Alia.  "Vaccines 101". 26 October 2007. Web. 06 April 2015.

"Biological Weapon". Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.

2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

“Amerithrax or Anthrax Investigation”. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

"Agent Orange."UXL Encyclopedia of Science. 2002.Web. 6 Apr. 2015

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