The Spread of Biological and Chemical Agents
The previous sections listed 11 of the most-feared chemical and biological agents. There are dozens of others that aren't as well known, either because they are not as toxic or not as easy to spread.
There are three ways to spread a chemical or biological agent so that it would infect a large number of people:
The most-feared scenario is through the air. Here are the techniques most commonly discussed:
- A bomb or a missile explodes, spreading the chemical or biological agent over a wide area.
- A crop-duster or other aircraft sprays the agent over a city.
- A car or truck drives through the city spraying a fine mist along city streets in crowded areas.
- Small bombs or aerosol canisters are released in crowded areas like subways, sports arenas or convention centers.
Here are some ways the U.S. is protecting civilians against attacks:
- Installing sensors in cities nationwide. You can read more about it in the following New York times articles: " U.S. Is Deploying a Monitor System for Germ Attacks" and "After Mapping the Human Genome, Analyzing the City's Air." .
- Stockpiling vaccines, including enough smallpox vaccine to vaccinate every person in the United States
- Developing new drugs and vaccines
- Writing emergency protocols for cities and hospitals
- Running drills of various attacks
Chemical and biological weapons are huge, ever-changing subjects. To learn more about them, follow the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- Biological Terrorism (University of Minnesota)
- Chemical Terrorism (University of Minnesota)
- CDC's List of Biological Agents
- Ready or Not? National Emergency Preparedness
- The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
- Burns, John. "'Chemical Ali' Gets Death Sentence." The New York Times. June 24, 2007. (8/27/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/24/world/africa/24iht-iraq.5.6306449.html
- Chivers, C.J. "Threats and responses: The Kurds; Still Suffering From '88 Gas Attack, a Village
- Chyba, Christopher. "Russia's Poison Gases." The New York Times. October 20, 2002. (8/27/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/30/opinion/russia-s-poison-gases.html
- Cohen, Roger. "Roger Cohen: A U.S.-Iranian Conversation." The New York Times. November 10, 2008. (8/27/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/10/opinion/10iht-edcohen.1.18556107.html
- Crane, David. "Indictment." March 3, 2003. (8/27/2009) http://www.sc-sl.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=afhF3nXfC%2BY%3D&tabid=159
- DePalma, Anthony. "After Mapping the Human Genome, Analyzing the City's Air." The New York Times. March 7, 2005. (8/27/2009) http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F07E2D91E3DF934A35750C0A9639C8B63
- Distrusts Iraq's Arms Report." The New York Times. December 11, 2002. (8/27/2009) ttp://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/11/world/threats-responses-kurds-still-suffering-88-gas-attack-village-distrusts-iraq-s.html
- Ellison, Hank. "Handbook of Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents." 2007. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
- Encyclopedia Britannica. "Tularemia." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 2009.
- Encyclopedia Britannica. "Plague." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 2009.
- Harrison, Karl. "June 1998. (8/27/2009) http://www.chem.ox.ac.uk/mom/vx/VX.htm
- Keyes, Daniel et al. "CBRNE - Nerve Agents V-series: Ve, Vg, Vm, Vx." December 19, 2007. (8/27/2009) http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/831760-overview#Intro
- Koblentz, Gregory. "Pathogens as Weapons: The International Security Implications of Biological Warfare." International Security. Vol. 28, no. 3. Winter 2003/04.
- Kristof, Nicholas. "Handling the Dear Leader." The New York Times. August 6, 2009. (8/27/2009) http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/handling-the-dear-leader
- Lipton, Eric. "Panel Warns That Defense Against Germ Attack is Weak." The New York Times. April 1, 2005. (8/28/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/01/politics/01bioterror.html
- Miller, Judith. "U.S. Is Deploying and Monitor System for Germ Attacks." The New York Times. January 22, 2003. (8/27/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/22/national/22DISE.html
- Ong, Caroline et al. "Chemical Weapon Munitions Dumped at Sea: an Interactive Map." August 6, 2009. (8/27/2009) http://cns.miis.edu/stories/090806_cw_dumping.htm
- Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. "About the OPCW." April 23, 2009. (8/28/2009) http://www.opcw.org/about-opcw/
- Pollack, Andrew. "New Ideas in the War on Bioterrorism." The New York Times. October 8, 2001. (8/27/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/09/health/anatomy/09BIOT.html
- Risen, James. "2005 Use of Gas by Blackwater Leaves Questions." The New York Times. January 10, 2008. (8/27/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/10/world/middleeast/10blackwater.html
- Stewart, Charles Edward. "Weapons of Mass Casualties and Terrorism Response Handbook." 2006. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
- Stolberg, Sheryl Gay and Lawrence K. Altman. "Threats and Responses: The Plan; New Plan to Meet Smallpox Attack." The New York Times. September 24, 2002. (8/27/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/24/us/threats-and-responses-the-plan-new-plan-to-meet-smallpox-attack.html
- The New York Times. "Russia's Germ Warfare Secrets." The New York Times. November 11 2001. (8/27/2009)http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/11/opinion/russia-s-germ-warfare-secrets.html
- Tucker, Jonathan B, PhD., Senior Fellow, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies Monterey Institute of International Studies Personal communication. 8/23/2009.
- Wade, Nicholas. "A DNA Success Raises Bioterror Concern." The New York Times. January 12, 2005. (8/27/2009) http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F00EFDC1638F931A25752C0A9639C8B63&sec=&spon=&&scp=2&sq=genome%20bioterrorism&st=cse
- Wade, Nicholas. "Genetic Engineers Who Don't Just Tinker." The New York Times. July 8, 2007. (8/27/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/08/weekinreview/08wade.html
- Wade, Nicholas. "A Trained Eye Finally Solved the Anthrax Puzzle." The new York Times. August 20, 2008. (8/27/2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/21/science/21anthrax.html