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Medical Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats

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Chemicals Affecting the Skin, Eyes, and Mucous Membranes

Vesicating agents such as sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard, lewisite, and caustic industrial chemicals can cause severe blistering and burns to the eyes, mucous membranes, skin, and upper airways, as well as chronic eye inflammation and blindness. The eyes are the organs most sensitive to these chemicals. Vesicants may also affect other parts of the body, including the respiratory tract, immune system, and bone marrow. Sulfur mustard can cause tissue damage within minutes of exposure. Physical injury from other vesicating agents may not be evident for several hours and may result in delayed recognition of exposure (see Names and Symbols of Classical Chemical Warfare Agents). In such situations, an exposed individual may put others at risk of secondary contamination.

Last Updated February 29, 2008