- By Kirk James Murphy, MD <email@example.com 10:04am
Tue Dec 7 '99
- Direct Action Network Medical Collective members provided
first aid and other care for thousands of casualties of chemical warfare
during the Seattle WTO protests. Collective members identified a subset
of casualties with symptoms consistent with exposure to neurotoxins which
disrupt acetylcholine. Irritant agents do not explain the symptoms.
- The Direct Action Network Medical Collective was organized
to provide first aid and other health services to activists and others
(onlookers, media, residents, and anyone else requesting assistance) in
Seattle for the WTO meeting last week. The Collective members rovided care
for literally hundreds of chemical warfare casualties on both November
30 and December 1; hundreds more have requested information and treatment
in subsequent days. As one may imagine, Collective members have acquired
extensive expertise in the recognitio and treatment of symptoms arising
from exposure to pepper spray (OC) and "tear gases" (CS and CN).
- Individuals exposed to chemical weapons in the late afternoon
and evening of December 1st at two locations downtown blocks adjacent to
Pike Place Market and the Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill evinced
and reported a pattern of symptoms which is inconsistent with the pattern
of symptoms which may be ascribed to irritating agents. This "atypical"
pattern of symptoms includes the rapid onset of:
- mydriasis (pupillary dilation) with resultant impairment
of visual acuity;
- tachycardia (rapid heart rate) with some palpitations;
- new-onset hypertension (high blood pressure) in one individual;
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (persisting for days after
- abrupt or immediate onset of menstruation (asynchronous
with usual menstrual cycle);
- muscular fasciculation (twitches);
- muscular dyscoordination;
- lethargy, confusion, disorientation, diminished concentration,
- Moreover, some casualties reported an abrupt experience
of loss of muscular tone and strength that sometimes (but not always) immediately
preceded a loss of consciousness; one observer of these affected individuals
reported uncontrolled, spasmodic movements in those affected.
- Some individuals exposed in the Pike Place Market area
reported that the aforementioned symptoms came immediately after exposure
to a non-irritating agent which was did not cause pain, lacrimation, or
burning on mucous membranes.
- At least one individual complaining of fasciculations
and cognitive impairment days after exposure reported resolution of both
symptoms for a duration of approximately five to six hours within twenty
to thirty minutes after treatment with 10 mg of the specific antidote dicyclomine
(Bentyl) - an anticholinergic medication which crosses the blood-brain
barrier and hence can relieve central nervous symptoms of excessive cholinergic
activity as well as relieving peripheral symptoms of the same etiology.
- The pattern of symptoms is not consistent with known
mechanisms of action of the irritant chemical weapons OC, CS, or CN. The
pattern, however, is consistent with disruption of neurotransmitter activity.
Lamentably, the single most compelling explanation for the observed findings
is the (deliberate or accidental) inclusion of "incapacitating agents"
which disrupt neuronal function in the chemical munitions discharged by
law enforcement agencies in Seattle during the WTO protest.
- While direct cholinergic effects or indirect (inhibition
of acetylcholinesterase) effects arising from synergistic combinations
(of OC, CS, and CN) cannot be ruled out at this time, the experience and
observations Medical Collective members, together with the aforementioned
information, appears to most robustly support the hypothesis that the casualties
described above resulted from exposure to cholinesterase inhibitors used
as chemical weapons in crowd control.
- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on December 4
that the Seattle Police Department had to replenish its chemical weapons
stocks by going to outside sources. Various individuals have reported being
told by individual law enforcement officers that chemical weapons in addition
to OC, CS, and CN were deployed by various entities; these anecdotal accounts
are not yet confirmed.
- Any information regarding the use of chemical munitions
in addition to OC, CS or CN, as well as information regarding the discharge
of chemical weapons by agencies other than the Seattle Police Department
would be helpful.
- Available Internet information from presumably authoritative
(eg, DOD) sources describes "nerve gases" as lethal agents. While
the casualties described above - fortunately - have not included fatalities,
the apparent pattern of excessive cholinergic activity and the fact that
"incapacitating agents" is the term of art for a subset of chemical
weapons used in crowd control suggests that the term "nerve gas"
may be a suboptimal descriptive term. "Incapacitating agents"
or "neurotoxic agents" may be more precise ways of describing
chemical munitions with the effects described above.
- If you were exposed to chemical weapons during the WTO
protests and have the pattern of "atypical" symptoms discussed
below, please make a written, signed, and dated account of your exposure,
including details such as the (approximate) location in which you were
exposed and the date and part of the day (morning, midday, afternoon, evening)
of your exposure, as well as the nature of your symptoms. Please send such
accounts to the email above and to the ACLU unit investigating law enforcement
actions in Seattle during the WTO protests.
- Collection of discharged chemical weapons munitions is
proceeding apace at this time. Collection of serum samples from affected
individuals will probably be organized over the next 48 hours. Assay of
garments (and other materials) exposed to the chemical warfare agents on
individuals demonstrating the aforementioned pattern of symptoms is also
contemplated. If you have canisters or other chemical munitions containers
discharged during the WTO protest, please contact the above email address
for information about how to forward these containers for chemical analysis
- [NOTE: Canisters of "CS" or "CN"
(tear gas) or "OC" (Oleoresin Capsaiscum) are not needed - we
know they were used. The containers to be sent for chemical analysis would
only be those without the above markings or those with markings consistent
with the use of other agents.]
- Your comments are invited and desired. Obviously, the
escalation of chemical weapons used in "crowd control" to include
even non-lethal neurotoxins is an exceedingly grave prospect: the qualitative
leap from irritant agents (OC, CS, CN) to agents which disrupt neuronal
function is truly an appalling prospect. This communication is intended
to ensure the fullest possible discussion and consideration of the events
and mechanisms described above. ****************************** Think globally...
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