Development, Historical Use and Properties of Chemical Warfare Agents
An overview is provided of the development, historical use and properties of chemical warfare agents from 1914 until the present. The advent of large scale tactical and strategic chemical warfare occurred almost one year into World War I. More than 30 agents were used, the most effective being phosgene and sulfur mustard. Although large stockpiles existed, chemical weapons were not used in Europe in World War II. An important milestone during that conflict was the development of the volatile nerve agents, tabun, sarin and soman, and in the post-war period the development of the low volatility V-type nerve agents. Sarin, soman, VX and RVX became the major components of modern arsenals together with the vesicants sulfur mustard and lewisite. Nerve agents and/or sulfur mustard were used in three more recent conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Other milestones have been the dissemination of sarin by terrorists in Japan in 1994 and 1995, the use of an incapacitant to end the siege of a Moscow theatre in 2002, and the entry into force in 1997 of the Chemical Weapons Convention.