The deliberate release of toxic materials to inflict injury or death is not a modern phenomenon. Indeed, it is likely that humans have utilized nature’s readily available bounty of poisons for nefarious purposes since time immemorial. However, a major development occurred during World War I. Prior to this, poisons based on simple inorganic chemicals or derivatives of toxic fauna and flora were mainly limited to weapons of assassination. The industrial capabilities of the main combatants in World War I, however, led to a rapid escalation in the complexity and effectiveness of chemical weapons on an immense scale: suddenly, it was possible to simultaneously expose thousands of individuals in an open environment to toxic concentrations of harmful substances. This led to great public opprobrium, and subsequently, a number of international agreements to ban such means of warfare were implemented (with varying degrees of success). The most significant development in recent times has been the willingness of certain factions to engage in activities that deliberately seek to expose unprotected members of the public to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) hazards. This presents a new and major challenge to medical personnel.
|Title of host publication||Environmental Medicine|
|Number of pages||12|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2010|