Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pharmacists crucial in plan for terrorist chemical weapons

Date:
December 10, 2011
Source:
SAGE Publications
Summary:
Terrorist attacks with chemical weapons are a real possibility, according to a new study. 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.

Terrorist attacks with chemical weapons are a real possibility, according to a study that appears in the online open-access 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," Anderson explains.

The good news is that there are potential antidotes to these chemical agents, which can save lives if they are used quickly and correctly. Pharmacists need to work in their hospitals to prepare emergency plans, and with the pharmacy and therapeutic committees to stock for a potential chemical accident or terrorist attack. In the US, for example, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a Strategic National Stockpile of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and supplies that can be sent in an emergency to any US state within 12 hours.

The threat from chemical agents may appear to be a symptom of our modern society, but the idea has been around since antiquity. Solon of Athens is said to have used hellebore roots (a purgative) to contaminate the water supply in the Pleistrus River during the Siege of Cirrha as long ago as 590 BC. Modern chemical warfare during World War I included the release by German soldiers of 150 tons of chlorine gas near Ypres, Belgium, and phosgene and nitrogen mustard also played a role in the conflict. Choking agents, vesicants, blood agents, and nerve gas joined the range of chemical weapons available by World War II. Even though conflicting nations produced these in large quantities, no major chemical weapon events occurred during World War II.

The Chemical Weapons Convention was finalized in 1993, prohibiting development, production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. The treaty also mandated weapons destruction. 130 countries signed the convention (excluding Iraq and North Korea).

Although the article is about chemical weapons, Anderson emphasizes that pharmacists can also be a resource for biological, radiological and nuclear attacks as well as natural disasters.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by SAGE Publications. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. P. D. Anderson. Emergency Management of Chemical Weapons Injuries. Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 2011; DOI: 10.1177/0897190011420677

Cite This Page:

SAGE Publications. "Pharmacists crucial in plan for terrorist chemical weapons." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111209150154.htm>.
SAGE Publications. (2011, December 10). Pharmacists crucial in plan for terrorist chemical weapons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111209150154.htm
SAGE Publications. "Pharmacists crucial in plan for terrorist chemical weapons." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111209150154.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new protocols for healthcare workers interacting with Ebola patients. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Researchers in South Korea are developing a robotic pilot that could potentially replace humans in the cockpit. Unlike drones and autopilot programs which are configured for specific aircraft, the robots' humanoid design will allow it to fly any type of plane with no additional sensors. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Tens of thousands of doses of experimental Ebola vaccines could be available for "real-world" testing in West Africa as soon as January as long as they are deemed safe in soon to start trials, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Urgent-Care Clinics Ill-Equipped to Treat Ebola

Urgent-Care Clinics Ill-Equipped to Treat Ebola

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Urgent-care clinics popping up across the US are not equipped to treat a serious illness like Ebola and have been told to immediately call a hospital and public health officials if they suspect a patient may be infected. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins