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Homeland Security

Chemical Attack: Long-term Issues

Late Health Effects of Chemical Agent Exposure

Most health effects from a chemical attack would occur quickly. Some injuries from acute exposure to toxic chemicals, such as eye damage and chemical burns, can persist for a lifetime. Detailed information on the possibility of developing other types of health effects later in life would be made available once a specific exposure is known. Of the military chemical weapons, only mustard gas is a known carcinogen. Although some industrial chemicals are carcinogenic, the risk of developing cancer later in life is not likely to increase significantly following a one-time exposure.

Monitoring and Clean-up of Affected Areas

In the days and weeks following the use of a chemical agent, officials might be expected to:

  • Evacuate the limited area near the release site.
  • Ensure proper ventilation of the area.
  • Establish a plan for careful monitoring and assessment of affected areas.
  • Decontaminate areas where liquid agent was present.
  • Assure the public that the threat has passed after thorough testing of the affected area.

Economic Impact

Such impacts might involve disruption to lives and livelihoods as the contaminated area is being cleaned up. An attack on a food or agricultural crop could result in long-lasting economic impact for suppliers and their communities as well as consumers.

Last Published Date: August 9, 2012
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