Chemical And Biological
Weapons Myths And Facts
From Jane's US Chemical-Biological Defense Guidebook
WASHINGTON (PRNewswire) -- As nations such as Iraq, Iran, Libya and North Korea allegedly stockpile chemical and biological weapons, the threat of the use of such weapons against the United States is becoming more of a real possibility. The "facts" about chemical and biological weapons, however, are often misleading; for example, while many fear missiles fitted with deadly chemical or biological warheads will be launched against the US, the fact is it is technically very difficult for threat nations to manufacture and accurately deliver such weapons.
Here are some other notable myths -- and facts -- about chemical and biological warfare detailed in the recently released Jane's US Chemical- Biological Defense Guidebook:
Myth: The use of chemical-biological weapons is a recent phenomenon.
Fact: Toxic fumes were used in India as far back as 2000 BC, and in 400 BC the Spartans reportedly used wood saturated with pitch and sulfur during sieges to choke city defenders. In 1346 at Kaffa (now Fedossia, Ukraine), bodies of Tartar soldiers who succumbed to plague were catapulted over the walls and into the besieged city.
Myth: Ballistic missiles are the ideal vehicle for delivering chemical- biological agents.
Fact: The use of ballistic missiles as a delivery system for chemical- biological agents poses distinct disadvantages. In older systems deployed in many less technically advanced threat countries, it is estimated the munitions will probably destroy 99 percent of an agent payload due to the pressure needed to break open the casings of these munitions at the point of detonation. Also, a missile warhead's munition chamber must detonate at a precise point -- 50 feet in altitude -- to sufficiently spread an agent's particles. Most threat countries do not possess weapons capable of such precision.
Myth: "Nerve gases" can be detected by sight.
Fact: Nerve agents are clear liquids, not "nerve gases." Most have no color. All nerve agents will penetrate clothing and skin.
Myth: Threat nations are more likely to use nuclear, not chemical- biological, weapons.
Fact: Large-scale production of biological agents can be accomplished through fermentation in a relatively short period of time. Only small amounts of biological agent seed stocks -- as little as 2 ml -- are needed to produce weapons-grade biological weapons material. Fermentation also represents the easiest and the most cost-effective method for producing biological weapons, since fermentation technology is readily available on the global market. This process is quick when compared to the time needed to reprocess uranium into weapons-grade fissile material.
Other facts found in Jane's US Chemical-Biological Defense Guidebook:
* Effective chemical agent decontamination must be completed within the first 1-2 minutes of initial exposure. Rapid action, either by the affected individual or by emergency response personnel, often means the difference between survival and death.
* The Korean People's Army (KPA) of North Korea conducted some 630 chemical weapons training exercises using live chemical agents between 1980 and 1991. Estimates of KPA chemical agent stockpiles are in the range from 1,000 to 5,000 tons.
* Concern about a possible chemical-biological attack at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games ran high. An estimated 3,000 US Army personnel, 6,300 National Guardsmen and at least 10,000 other law enforcement officials were on hand in Atlanta during the event, nearly doubling the 12,000 person security contingent at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
Jane's US Chemical-Biological Defense Guidebook is a comprehensive resource for everything from chemical and biological agent weaponization to emergency response. It is an ideal tool for federal, state and local emergency management officials, "first responders" such as police, fire and emergency medical personnel, the military, and all others with a stake in being well-prepared for a potential chemical or biological weapons attack.
The 470-page guidebook, also available on CD-ROM, provides a listing of all major chemical and biological agents, complete with each agent's composition, intended effects, symptoms and antidotes. The reference also explains defensive measures, medical responses, training procedures, detection and protection equipment, and contains a complete list of US federal, state and local chemical-biological defense agencies.
Jane's US Chemical-Biological Defense Guidebook also includes threat assessments of nations and terrorist groups with access to chemical and biological weapons, an extensive survey of US civilian and military agency responsibilities in a chemical or biological contingency, federal training programs, and the legal, policy and operational frameworks activated in a chemical-biological crisis. The title includes 56 photographs and 116 charts and tables.
For more information or to order Jane's US Chemical-Biological Defense Guidebook ($895 hardcopy, $1075 CD-ROM), call 800-824-0768, or visit Jane's on the Internet at
Jane's US Chemical-Biological Defense Guidebook is published by Jane's Information Group, described by the CBS program Sixty Minutes as "the closest thing there is to a commercial intelligence agency." Jane's is the leading provider of defense, aerospace, aviation, transportation, geopolitical, and police and security information to the world's militaries, governments, universities and businesses.
SOURCE: Jane's Information Group C. 1998 PR Newswire

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