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Chemical Terrorism

Military and Homeland Security Toxicology Issues

  1. Bryan Ballantyne MD, DSc, PhD, FRCPath, FFOM, FACOEM, FAACT, FATS, FIBiol, CBiol

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470744307.gat132

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

How to Cite

Ballantyne, B. 2009. Chemical Terrorism. General, Applied and Systems Toxicology. .

Author Information

  1. Independent Consultant in Occupational and Clinical Toxicology, Charleston, West Virginia, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009


Terrorism has a very long history. Terrorism has been defined terrorism as deliberately and violently targeting civilians for political purposes. One of the objectives of terrorism may be to generate a disproportionate response and thereby alienate the population against the state. The range of weaponry potentially available to terrorists is wide and variable: weapons used may include guns or explosive devices, radioactive/nuclear sources, biological organisms and toxins (bioterrorism) or xenobiotic chemicals (chemical terrorism). Chemicals that might be used include irritant and/or disorienting materials, nauseating materials, psychogenic materials and severely toxic and lethal agents. The only major chemical terrorist action to date was the two instances of use in Japan of sarin, an organophosphorus ester G-agents, where there was large-scale mass casualties. While many other compounds could be used in chemical terrorism (eg cyanide, arsine), the only other mass casualty situation to date involving terrorism was the death of many innocent citizens in an anti-hostage situation in Moscow; this appears to have caused by the authorities' response, rather than the action of the terrorists.


  • Terror;
  • chemical;
  • sarin;
  • organophosphorus;
  • fentanyl;
  • cyanide;
  • response