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Chemical Weapons Convention

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The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

Drafted September 3, 1992 - Signed January 13, 1993 - Effective condition April 29, 1997

The main goal of the CWC, highlighted below, is taken from the preamble to the treaty:

". . Determined for the sake of all mankind, to exclude completely the possibility of the use of chemical weapons, through the implementation of the provisions of this Convention."

This treaty also works intricately with private chemical companies because the history of Chemical Weapons development is inextricably linked with development of industrial pesticides and solvents. The inputs that lead to Chemical Weapons often have many legitimate uses. This problem is partly why it took over 20 years to create a workable treaty assuring that private enterprise is not hampered yet still assuring that Chemical Weapons will be destroyed and never produced again.

History of the CWC

The CWC is an extension of the 1925 Geneva Protocol that aimed to outlaw the production, stockpiling and use of Chemical Weapons. It was opened for signature in 1993 and entered into force in April of 1997, 180 days after the 65th signatory country (#OPCW). The total number of signatories is up to 175 countries (CWC.GOV).


The CWC is administered by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. This organization is an independent organization based in the Hague, Netherlands and is charged with implementing and insuring that both no new chemical weapons are produced and that world stockpiles are destructed in accordance with the stated goals of the CWC.

Controlled Substances

Many chemicals that are used in the synthesis of or as Chemical Weapons themselves often have legitimate industrial usage. Therefore, the CWC breaks down controlled substances into three categories with differing limitations for each. Below is an excerpt from the #OPCW website explaining the break-down of the different classes:

Schedule 1 chemicals include those that have been or can be easily used as chemical weapons and which have very limited, if any, uses for peaceful purposes. These chemicals are subject to very stringent restrictions, including a ceiling on the production of one tonne per annum per State Party, a ceiling on total possession at any given time of one tonne per State Party, licensing requirements, and restrictions on transfers. These restrictions apply to the relatively few industrial facilities that use Schedule 1 chemicals. Some Schedule 1 chemicals are used as ingredients in pharmaceutical preparations or as diagnostics. The Schedule 1 chemical saxitoxin is used as a calibration standard in monitoring programMes for paralytic shellfish poisoning, and is also used in neurological research. Ricin, another Schedule 1 chemical, has been employed as a bio-medical research tool. Some Schedule 1 chemicals and/or their salts are used in medicine as anti-neoplastic agents. Other Schedule 1 chemicals are usually produced and used for protective purposes, such as for testing CW protective equipment and chemical agent alarms.

Schedule 2 chemicals include those that are precursors to, or that in some cases can themselves be used as, chemical weapons agents, but which have a number of other commercial uses (such as ingredients in resins, flame-retardants, additives, inks and dyes, insecticides, herbicides, lubricants and some raw materials for pharmaceutical products). For example, BZ is a neurotoxic chemical listed under Schedule 2, which is also an industrial intermediate in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals such as clindinium bromide. Thiodiglycol is both a mustard gas precursor as well as an ingredient in water-based inks, dyes and some resins. Another such example is DMMP, a chemical related to certain nerve agent precursors that is used as a flame retardant in textiles and foamed plastic products.

Schedule 3 chemicals include those that can be used to produce, or can be used as, chemical weapons, but which are widely used for peaceful purposes (including plastics, resins, mining chemicals, petroleum refining fumigants, paints, coatings, anti-static agents and lubricants). Among the toxic chemicals listed under Schedule 3 are phosgene and hydrogen cyanide, which have been used as chemical weapons, but are also utilised in the manufacture of polycarbonate resins and polyurethane plastics, as well as certain agricultural chemicals. Triethanolamine, a precursor chemical for nitrogen mustard gas, is found in a variety of detergents (including shampoos, bubble baths and household cleaners) as well as being used in the desulfurisation of fuel gas streams.

Discrete Organic Chemicals
Among those chemicals not specifically listed in the Schedules or anywhere in the Convention are discrete organic chemicals (DOCs). Manufacturing operations producing DOCs are referred to as "other chemical production facilities". These plant sites are subject to declarations and verification requirements if they produce in aggregate more than 200 tonnes of DOCs annually. They are also subject to these requirements if they comprise plants at which more than 30 tonnes of any DOCs containing the elements phosphorous, sulfur or fluorine (PSF chemicals) are produced. Thousands of plant sites have been declared to the Technical Secretariat.

Known Production Facilities

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • China
  • France
  • India
  • The Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Japan
  • The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
  • Russian Federation
  • Serbia
  • The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • The United States of America
  • A State Party (possibly South Korea)

Of the 65 declared Chemical Weapons production facilities, 57 have been certified as destroyed or converted for peaceful purposes (#OPCW).


According the #OPCW, 100% of Chemical Weapons production facilities have been inactivated and 100% of stockpiles have been inventoried and verified, 30% of the world stockpile of chemical munitions and containers have been destroyed, and 22% of the world's stockpile of chemical agents have been destroyed ([#OPCW}).

However lately, major stockpile destruction have failed to meet the 2007 deadline of destruction and will surely not meet the 2012 complete destruction goal. See #Current Events below for articles concerning this.

Current Events

December 6, 2006
China has reaffirmed its commitment and urged other coutnries to destory all chemical stockpiles by 2012. See full article from BBC.

November 21, 2006
The United States has pushed back the date for complete destruction of its chemical weapons stockplie until 2023, 11 years after the deadline that was previously set. See the full USA Today article.

September 8, 2006
Russia has opened another plant to hasten destruction of its immense stockpile of chemical weapons. The plant, Russia's third destruciton facility, is charged with destorying 17% of the country's stockpile and will focus its efforts on neutralizing nerve agents stored in bombs and warheads. See the full text from the Associated Press Worldstream.

July 7, 2006
The United States has requested an extension to the Chemical Weapons Convention's deadline to destroy its stockpile by 2012. Analysts estimate the US will not be able to destroy its stockpiles until around 2020. See full article from State Department Documents and Publication.


Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

United States Chemical Weapon Convention Website.

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