Arsenic-based warfare agents: production, use, and destruction
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Since the beginning of time, civilizations have looked for more creative ways to dominate and defeat their enemies. The rapid development of the chemical industry just before the Second World War started the era of modern chemical weapon production based on poisons, including toxic arsenic compounds. This paper provides a detailed overview of the production, usage and destruction of this dangerous chemical weapon. Milestones include: (i) the development of knowledge concerning the synthesis and decomposition of toxic warfare agents containing arsenic compounds, (ii) increased awareness of the influence of this poison on human life and the environment, (iii) the development of modern technology for the destruction of chemical weapons, (iv) implementation of legislation which prohibits the use of chemical weapons in combat, and (v) the development of analytical methods to detect arsenic compounds in the environment that was used in warfare. The article includes events before World War I and next focuses on World War II, the Vietnam War and the two Gulf Wars. It further details the development of specific arsenical chemical weapons (e.g. Lewisite, Clark I, Clark II, Adamsite), as well as some agents used as herbicides, like Agent Blue. Special attention is paid to the disarmament times and the challenges of implementing a world-wide plan to destroy chemical weapon stockpiles.