Chemical warfare means using chemical compounds and agents in war to cause injury or death. The chemicals used are not explosive, but they are poisonous. The chemicals are also not made from living beings or organic matter (See Biological warfare). The main types of agents used in chemical warfare are:
- Nerve agents
- Mustard agents
- Hydrogen cyanide-based agents
- Tear gases
- pepper spray
- Incapacitating agents such as
- Potential chemical warfare agents
If we use chemicals (like Agent Orange or glyphosate) to destroy plants, sometimes human beings may be affected by side-effects. But, we will not call it chemical warfare. Chemical warfare covers only direct attacks on human life.
Use in antiquity [change]
The first form of chemical warfare was in the form of poisoned arrows, and spear-tips, during the Stone age. These were dipped in poison (like that from snakes or scorpions. Sometimes poisonous plants were used. The Ancient Chinese used various forms of poisonous smokes, when they besieged a city. Ancient Greeks used a form of burning wood, pitch, and sulphur.
World War One [change]
Poison gas was first used in World War One. France was the first country to make this type of gas. However, Germany was the first to use it in battle on March 15th, 1915, when they used tear gas against France. It was included in some of the new, deadly weapons of World War One.
The three types of gas used in World War One were Clorine Gas (tear gas), phosgene gas, and mustard gas. Tear gas made a person cough and go blind very fast. Phosgene caused a person to cough and choke much worse than tear. Mustard Gas was the worst gas because it almost impossible to protect against. It caused sores on the outside and inside of the body.
Gas usage mostly stopped at the end of the war because of the making of gas protection.
Modern use [change]
They were not used very much in World War II, apart by the Japanese army during the invasion of China. This was because, everybody was afraid that the other side would use weapons like theirs. Also, chemical weapons were not easy to use. The time taken to use them, slowed the advance of one's own troops. The raw materials for producing chemical weapons were not easy to get. This was because World War II was fought in areas which were not connected well by railroads.
According to international law, it is wrong to use chemical weapons. There are many rules that ban the production, import and use of chemical weapons. Of these the most important is the Chemical Weapons Convention(CWC).
United States has been an active user of chemical weapons like Agent Orange even after World War II. However, when UN formed a working group in 1980 that works for making the number of chemical weapons in the world less, On April 4, 1984 the President of United States, Ronald Reagan called for a worldwide ban on chemical weapons. After this, negotiations between various countries started. The Chemical Weapons Convention was signed in 1993 and came into effect in 1997. Experts believe that 70,000 metric tons of chemical weapons are known to be present totally in this world. Out of this, 8000 metric tons have been destroyed in the past few years. By 2003, United States had destroyed 23% of its total chemical weapons. Other countries like India, South Korea and Russia are destroying chemical weapons under the CWC. Libya is also destroying its weapons in the last few years.