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Binary Weapons

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The sulfur mustards, of which mustard gas is a member, are a class of related cytotoxic, vesicant chemical warfare agents with the ability to form large blisters on exposed skin. In their pure form most sulfur mustards are colorless, odorless, viscous liquids at room temperature. When used as warfare agents they are usually yellow-brown in color and have an odor resembling mustard plants, garlic or horseradish, which is how they got their name. However, these compounds have absolutely no relation whatsoever to culinary mustard.

Sulfur mustards are variations of "mustard gas" (bis-(2-chloroethyl) sulfide), which was first synthesised by Frederick Guthrie in 1860, though it is possible that it was developed as early as 1822 by M. Depretz. In 1886 V. Meyer published a paper describing a synthesis which produced good yields. Mustard gas is referred to by numerous other names, including HD, senfgas, sulfur mustard, blister gas, s-lost, lost, Kampfstoff LOST, yellow cross liquid, and yperite. The abbreviation LOST comes from the names Lommel and Steinkopf, who developed a process for mass producing the gas for war use at the German company Bayer AG. This involved reacting thiodiglycol with hydrochloric acid.

Mustard agents, including sulfur mustard, are regulated under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Three classes of chemicals are monitored under this Convention, with sulfur and Nitrogen mustard grouped in the highest risk class, "schedule 1".


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Hutchinson, Robert. Weapons of mass Destruction: The No-nonsense Guide to Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons Today. Widenfield and nicholson, 2003.

Smart, Jeffery K., M.A. (1997). "History of Biological and Chemical Warfare. Textbook of Military Medicine: Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare. Retrieved Jan. 5, 2006 from Center for Diaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM). Retreived Jan. 5, 2004.

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