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Chemical Warfare Agents: Their Past and Continuing Threat and Evolving Therapies Part I of II


Henry G. Skelton, MD, Anatomic Pathology, Quest Diagnostics, 1777 Montreal Circle, Tucker, GA 30084 E-mail:


Chemical warfare agents are potentially accessible to even underdeveloped nations because they are easily and inexpensively produced. This means that they are ideal for use by terrorists and in military operations against civilian populations and troops. In terms of cutaneous injury, vesicants—mainly sulfur mustard—are the most significant chemical warfare agents. Advances in understanding the pathophysiology of the lesions produced by sulfur mustard have led to the research and development of barrier creams as well as pre- and post-exposure therapies to moderate the damage and accelerate healing. Part I of this paper will discuss the history and classification of chemical agents; Part II, which will appear in the September/October 2003 issue of SKINmed, will discuss characteristic manifestations of exposure to chemical agents, as well as prevention and therapy

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