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Chemical Attacks
Throughout history, especially in modern warfare, one of the most common ways to kill a mass group of people is through chemical attacks. A chemical attack is any toxic chemical used in the form of a weapon, typically contained in a delivery system- bomb or shell.

Chemical Attacks in World War I

In 1915, three chemical attacks responsible for injuries and deaths during World War I were: chlorine gas, mustard gas and phosgene. They are described as follows:

  • Chlorine gas produces a greenish-yellow cloud containing the smell of bleach and immediately affects the eyes, nose, lungs and throat.
  • Mustard gas, known as the “King of the Battle Gases” holds a potent smell described as garlic, gasoline, rubber or dead horses. Although mustard gas does not have an instant effect, hours after being exposed, the victims’ eyes turn bloodshot red, start watering and become extremely painful. Some victims face temporary blindness and even skin blistering.
  • Phosgene is an irritant that is six times deadlier than chlorine gas. This gas is colorless and smells like moldy hay but doesn’t affect the body until a day or two after an attack. The effect of this chemical attack is a slow suffocating death.

On average, chemical weapon agents (CWA) are the outcome of industrial accidents, military stockpiling, wars and terrorist attacks. These hazardous substances come in a variety, such as nerve agents, vesicating or blistering agents, choking agents or lung toxicants, cyanides, incapacitating agents, lacrimation or riot control agents and vomiting agents.

The last mass usage of chemicals in military operation recorded was when Syrian military used sarin gas against civilians during the Syrian Civil War in 2013, killing hundreds.

Effects of Chemical Attacks

The effects of chemical attacks range from physical to clinical and can have short-term or long-term consequences. Victims can be exposed through the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. The liquid and high vapor concentrations affect the skin, causing rashes, burning and blistering. Liquid and vapor gases affect the eyes, which can lead to severe burning, irritation and blindness. Lastly, vapor inhalation affects the respiratory tract, resulting in choking to death.

All agents have a more intense effect when used in an enclosed area. “All I know is I had to get my helmet on the first time because it felt like death the minute I walked in there,” Kori Holmes told the Borgen Project in an interview while describing his training experience in military boot camp for the army.

In preparation for the army, soldiers have to be able to walk in the room clouded with gas and put our gas masks on without any assistance. Kori stated that the gas was so strong, his eyes started burning instantly and his throat felt like he had strep. He managed to finally get his gas mask on and escape.

Clinical effects of chemical attacks are contingent upon the amount of exposure, which also means the effects can be sudden or delayed. For example, inhalation of nerve agents (mustard gas) can kill victims immediately. The smallest amount of exposure on the skin to a nerve agent can be deadly, with delayed effects.

Treatment of Chemical Attacks Victims

In an attempt to medically manage the effects of chemical attacks, emergency workers wear protective equipment in order to decontaminate victims and provide antidotes. The first responders to chemical attacks are at risk of being chemically contaminated when coming in direct contact with vapor or handling the skin and clothing of victims.

Even with treatment, long-term effects of chemical attacks are primarily mental, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. Physically, permanent brain damage and other disorders of the nervous system can happen.

The effects of chemical attacks can be deadly and are certainly and represent a step back in building a modern society. As of today, the possession and use of chemical weapons are prohibited under international law, yet there are still nations that continue to have active chemical weapon programs.

The United States has five incinerators in operation, with hopes of keeping citizens safe along with maintaining public health and the environment as the top priority.

– Kayla Sellers
Photo: Flickr

Less than 100 years ago, millions of innocent Greeks were killed or deported in what is known as the Greek Genocide. In the Asia Minor region of Turkey, the Ottoman Empire felt it was being threatened by the indigenous Greek people. As a result, the Empire enacted a systematic genocide to rid the nation-state of the Greek contaminants. During the nine-year genocidal period, the Turks and the Ottoman government set out to exterminate the Christian Greek population that resided in the Ottoman Empire. These are ten facts about the Greek Genocide that set the pace for the future of the Ottoman Empire.

  1. The Balkan War, from 1912 to 1913, was the true initial marker for the Christian Greeks’ bleak future. Between these two years, four territories in the Balkans (Serbia, Bugaria, Montenegro and Greece) were successfully freed from Ottoman rule. After the war, the Ottoman Empire feared it would lose more power. The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), an ultranationalist group of Young Turks, ultimately took over the Ottoman Empire with the goal of completing total Turkification throughout the Empire, or a full cultural shift to Turkic culture.
  2. The indigenous Greek people were seen as a threat to the Ottoman Empire before and during World War I. The Ottoman Empire feared that the Christian Greek population would attempt to aid the Empire’s enemies during the war, causing its defeat. Additionally, the Empire believed the Christian Greeks were tainting the population and would ruin the integrity of the current Muslim-majority nation-state. Therefore, the Empire opted for a solution to this problem: genocide.
  3. The Ottoman Empire began to target the indigenous Greek population in order to accomplish its goal of full Turkification. The Greek Genocide took place from 1914 to 1923, beginning a year after the Balkan War and aligning with the events of World War I.
  4. Ottoman Greek men of ages 21 to 45 were sent to concentration camps to work for the Turks. Working around the clock with little to no food, hundreds perished in the camps.
  5. Greek children were kidnapped and forced to conform to Turkish society. Villages were pillaged and burned to the ground.
  6. Deportations were issued in the Dardanelles and Gallipolli regions of Asia Minor. The Greek inhabitants of the western coastline of Asia Minor were sent to Muslim villages, where they had to either convert to Islam or be killed. The rest of the Christian Greek population was sent to the interior lands, where they would be exposed to harsh winter weather, starvation and illness.
  7. Approximately 3.5 million Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians died during this nine-year period.
  8. The Ottoman Empire was among the four Central Powers to lose in World War I. After the loss, leaders of the CUP Party were sentenced to death for their role in the organized Greek genocide.
  9. In 1922, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and became the New Republic of Turkey. A year later, the Greek Genocide ended.
  10. There are three remembrance days for the Greek Genocide: April 6 for the Eastern Thrace region, May 19 for the Pontus region and September 14 for Asia Minor.

Nine long years and 3.5 million lost souls later, the Ottoman Empire had officially ended its bloody crusade. Though its efforts to continue the massacres were passed on to the next leadership, the Empire was unable to strongly execute its plans. Many poor decisions led to the collapse of the five-century Ottoman rule, and while the Empire will not be remembered fondly, the lives of those lost in the Greek Genocide will be.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr