CBRNE (pronounced "SEE-burn") is an acronym for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive materials. These materials are very dangerous, and can hurt many people. When they are used on purpose, CBRNE materials are weapons of mass destruction. However, CBRNE events can also happen accidentally.
A report from the White House in 2011 said "there is no greater danger to the [United States] than a terrorist attack with a weapon of mass destruction." Because CBRNE weapons are so dangerous, countries around the world are working on preventing CBRNE attacks, and learning how to react to them if they do happen.
Types of CBRNE weapons[change | change source]
Chemical[change | change source]
The main types of chemical weapons are:
- Nerve agents, which attack the central nervous system. Examples include types of pesticides called organophosphates; sarin; and VX.
- Blister agents, which cause burns and blisters both inside and outside of the body. Examples include the mustard gases.
- Blood agents, which make it impossible for the blood to carry oxygen to the body. The most common blood agents are made with cyanide.
- Choking agents, which attack the lungs and make them fill with fluid. This makes breathing impossible. Examples include chlorine gas and phosgene.
- Incapacitating agents, which are designed to hurt a large number of people, and make it impossible for them to fight back, but without killing them. Examples include tear gas and pepper spray.
Biological[change | change source]
- Bacteria, like the bacteria that cause anthrax and plague
- Viruses, like the ones that cause smallpox, Ebola, and the flu
- Toxins (poisons made by living things), like ricin, botulism toxin, and aflatoxin
In 2001, a terrorist used a biological weapon against the United States by sending letters filled with anthrax through the mail to many different people. Ricin has also been sent through the mail as a biological attack.
Radiological[change | change source]
- A dirty bomb (a regular bomb which spreads radioactive material)
- Poisoning food or water supplies with radioactive contamination
The White House's report says that there is radiological material all around the world that is not guarded.
Nuclear[change | change source]
Although many countries have tested nuclear weapons, they have only been used as weapons of mass destruction twice. During World War II, the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Hiroshima, the nuclear bomb destroyed 4.7 square miles (12 km2) of the city, and killed 60,000 to 80,000 people right away. More people later died from radiation sickness and cancer caused by radiation, so historians think about 135,000 people were killed by the one nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima.
After these bombings, many countries agreed to get rid of their nuclear bombs. However, some countries still have nuclear bombs, and there is nuclear material around the world that is not guarded.
Explosives[change | change source]
Explosive weapons include things like regular bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Terrorists have often used IEDs to kill and injure soldiers in Iraq. In some other countries, like Israel, terrorists attach bombs to their bodies and make them explode in public places, killing many people as well as themselves. During the Vietnam War, the United States often used napalm ("liquid fire") as part of their bombs. They also mixed it with gasoline and phosphorous to make it more explosive and sprayed it directly from boats and helicopters.
Accidental CBRNE events[change | change source]
Examples of accidental CBRNE events include:
- Chemical: Accidental chemical spills (like an oil spill, or a dangerous chemical leaking out of a laboratory)
- Biological: Outbreaks of infectious disease (like a flu epidemic)
- Radiological: Accidental spills of radioactive chemicals in laboratories or hospitals (like a spill of uranyl nitrate, which is used to look at viruses under electron microscopes); accidents during radiation therapy
- Nuclear: Accidents at nuclear power plants like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island
- Explosive: A person who is on oxygen for breathing problems lights a cigarette and accidentally blows up her entire apartment building
Photo gallery[change | change source]
Victims of a sarin gas attack in 2013, during the Syrian Civil War
A letter sent to two U.S. Senators in 2001 with anthrax inside
Photo from right after the Boston Marathon bombings
References[change | change source]
- "What is CBRN?" (PDF). ceep.ca. The Centre for Excellence in Emergency Preparedness (Ontario). Retrieved February 3, 2016.
- National Science and Technology Council Committee on Homeland and National Security, Subcommittee on Standards (May 2011) A National Strategy for CBRNE Standards . Office of Science and Technology Policy, 4. Report. Retrieved on February 3, 2016.
- Hayer, Robert J. (January 10, 2006) Introduction to CBRNE Terrorism: An Awareness Primer and Preparedness Guide for Emergency Response . The Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Association. Report. Retrieved on February 3, 2016.
- "U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey: The Effects of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, June 19, 1946. President's Secretary's File, Truman Papers". Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. p. 9. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
- "Fact File: Hiroshima and Nagasaki". bbc.co.uk. BBC. September 2005. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
- Crane, Conrad C.; Van Rhyn, Mark E. "The Atomic Bomb (6 and 9 August 1945)". PBS: The War. PBS. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
- "Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Subsequent Weapons Testing". World Nuclear Association. December 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
- Kotz, Deborah. "Injury toll from Marathon bombs reduced to 264". The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 3, 2016.