and Biological Weapons:
Use in Warfare, Impact on Society and Environment
by Gert G. Harigel, November 2001
Since the end of World War II there
has been a number of treaties dealing with the limitations, reductions,
and elimination of so-called weapons of mass destruction and/or
their transport systems (generally called delivery systems). Some
of the treaties are bilateral, others multilateral, or in rare
cases universal. In the present paper only the chemical and biological
weapons will be discussed, with emphasis on the Convention to
eliminate them (CBWC).
The term "Weapons of Mass
Destruction" (WMD), used to encompass nuclear (NW), biological
(BW), and chemical weapons (CW), is misleading, politically dangerous,
and cannot be justified on grounds of military efficiency. This
had been pointed out previously by the author  and discussed
in considerable detail in ref. . Whereas protection with various
degrees of efficiency is possible against chemical and biological
weapons, however inconvenient it might be for military forces
on the battlefield and for civilians at home, it is not feasible
at all against nuclear weapons. Chemical weapons have shown to
be largely ineffective in warfare, biological weapons have never
been deployed on any significant scale. Both types should be better
designated as weapons of terror against civilians and weapons
of intimidation for soldiers. Requirements on their transport
system differ vastly from those for nuclear warheads. They are
able to cause considerable anxiety, panic, and psychosis without
borders within large parts of the population. Stockpiling of biological
weapons is not possible over a long time scale [3, 4]. Only nuclear
weapons are completely indiscriminate by their explosive power,
heat radiation and radioactivity, and only they should therefore
be called a weapon of mass destruction.
However, if one wants to maintain
the term "Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)",
it is a defendable view to exclude chemical and biological
weapons, but put together with nuclear weapons all those
that actually has killed millions of people in civil wars since
World War II. These are mainly assault rifles, like AK47s,
handguns, and land mines, to a lesser extent mortars,
fragmentation bombs, and hand grenades.
This paper gives in Chapter 2 an overview
on the history of chemical warfare, addresses in Chapter 3 the
inventory of chemical weapons, discusses in Chapter 4 the elimination
of chemical weapons and possible problems resulting for the environment
(CW), reviews in Chapter 5 some non-lethal chemical weapons and
chemical weapons which may be on the borderline to conventional
explosives, and describes in Chapter 6 some of the old and new
biological weapons (BW). Chapter 7 evaluates and compares the
use of biological and chemical weapons by terrorists and by military
in combat. The present status and verification procedures for
the Chemical and Biological Weapons Convention (CBWC) are addressed
in the conclusions in Chapter 8.
2. Chemical Warfare, Its History
The Greeks first used sulfur mixtures
with pitch resin for producing suffocating fumes in 431 BC during
the Trojan War. Attempts to control chemical weapons date back
to a 1675 Franco-German accord signed in Strasbourg. Then came
the Brussels Convention in 1874 to prohibit the use of poison
or poisoned weapons. During the First Hague Peace Appeal in 1899,
the Hague Convention elaborated on the Brussels accord by prohibiting
the use of projectiles that would diffuse "asphyxiating or
deleterious" gases (Laws and Customs of Wars on Land).
This Convention was reinforced during the second Hague conference
in 1907, but prohibitions were largely ignored during World War
I. At the battle of Ypres/Belgium, canisters of chlorine gas were
exploded in April 1915 by Germany, which killed 5,000 French troops
and injured 15,000. Fritz Haber, a Nobel price winner in 1919
for invention of ammonium fixation, had convinced the German Kaiser
to use chlorine gas to end the war quickly. History taught us
about a different outcome. During World War I all parties used
an estimated 124,000 tons of chemicals in warfare. Mustard gas
- "the king of battle gases" - then used on both sides
in 1917 killed 91,000 and injured 1.2 million, accounting for
80% of the chemical casualties (death or injury). Chemical weapons
caused about 3 percent of the estimated 15 million casualties
on the Western Front [3, 6]. To put these numbers into perspective,
the total loss of Allied lives was ³ 5 million, of the Central
Powers 3.4 million, and the total of all wounded soldiers 21 million.
Despite of its intensive use, gas was a military failure in WW
I. The inhuman aspect and suffering was soon recognized and the
year 1922 saw the establishment of the Washington Treaty, signed
by the United States, Japan, France, Italy and Britain. In 1925
the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the use in war of
Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases and Bacteriological
Methods of Warfare was signed, and it had been a cornerstone
of chemical and biological arms control since then. The Geneva
Protocol did neither forbid the stockpiling or the research on
Despite the conventions, banning chemical
weapons, Italians used them during the war 1935-36 in Ethiopia,
the Japanese in China during World War II (1938-42), and they
were used also in Yemen (1966-67). Various new chemicals were
developed for use in weapons. Sarin, Soman, and VX followed Tabun,
the first nerve gas, discovered in 1936.
During the Vietnam War (1961-1973),
the US was accused of using lachrymatory agents and heavy doses
of herbicides (defoliants) in much the same manner as chemical
weapons. Some international organizations consider Napalm, its
trade name, to be a chemical weapon, others put it on equal level
with flame throwers, and consequently not falling under any of
the articles of the CWC.
Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons
against Iraqi civilians as well as against Iran soldiers between
1980 and 1988. It is estimated that of the approximately 27,000
Iranians exposed to Iraqi mustard gas in that war through March
1987, only 265 died. Over the entire war, Iraqi chemical weapons
killed 5,000 Iranians. This constituted less than one percent
of the 600,000 Iranians who died from all causes during the war
The Convention on the Prohibition
of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical
Weapons And on Their Destruction (CWC) , entered into force
in 1997 after deposit of 65 ratification documents, and is signed
as of May 1999 by 122 states-parties. There are 46 non-ratifying
signatories, and 22 non-states parties [8, 9].
3. The Inventory of Chemical Weapons
Chemical weapons have been produced
during the twentieth century by many countries and in large quantities.
They are still kept in the military arsenals as weapons of in
kind or flexible response. Old ammunition is partially discarded
in an environmental irresponsible way.
3.1 Military value of chemical
By their nature, chemical arms have
a relatively limited range: they create regional rather than global
security problems, and slow the tempo of operations. In this,
they are militarily more akin to conventional arms than to nuclear
or biological weapons.
Even extended use of chemical weapons
had no decisive impact on outcome of wars, had only local success,
and made wars uncomfortable, to no purpose. For this and other
reasons it is difficult to see why they are around in the first
place. However, they had been produced in enormous quantities
and mankind has to deal with their very costly elimination.
Should scientists be held responsible
for their invention, production, use, and also for the elimination
of chemical weapons? Certainly not entirely, since military and
politicians demanded their production. However, we need the help
of scientists for the difficult job of neutralising or eliminating
3.2 Classification of chemical
Binary munitions contain two separated
non-lethal chemicals that react to produce a lethal chemical when
mixed during battlefield delivery. Unitary weapons, representing
the by far largest quantity of the stockpile, contain a single
lethal chemical in munitions. Other unitary agents are stored
in bulk containers. The characteristics of chemical warfare agents
and toxic armament wastes are described in detail in ref. .
The reader is referred to this article, which summarises the chemical
and physical characteristics of blister, blood, choking, nerve,
riot control, and vomiting agents, as well as their effects on
the human body.
3.3 Abandoned Weapons
The easiest - say cheapest - way
to eliminate (?) chemical weapons in the aftermath of World
War II appeared to dump them into ocean . There had been a
worry that, after their defeat in 1945, Germans could be tempted
to use part of their arsenal, which totaled 296,103 tons. Therefore,
the weapons were captured and dumped into the sea. There are more
than 100 sea dumping of chemical weapons that took place from
1945 to 1970 in every ocean except the Arctic. 46,000 tons were
dumped in the Baltic areas known as the Gotland Deep, Bornholm
Deep, and the Little Belt. According to The Continental Committee
on Dumping the total was shared by 93,995 tons from the US,
9,250 tons from France, 122,508 tons from Britain, and 70,500
tons from Russia.
The US dumped German chemical weapons
in the Scandinavian region, totaling between 30,000 and 40,000
tons, nine ships in the Skagerrak Strait and two more in the North
Sea at depth of 650 to 1,180 meters.
The Russians alone have dumped 30,000
tons in an area, 2,000 square kilometers in size, near the Gotland
and Bornholm Islands.
Between 1945 and 1949, the British
dumped 34 shiploads carrying 127,000 tons of chemical (containing
40,000 tons mustard gas) and conventional weapons in the Norwegian
Trench at 700 meters depth.
The chemical weapons at the bottom
of the Baltic Sea (mean depth of the Baltic Sea is 51 meters)
and the North Sea represent a serious danger for the aquatic life.
The shells of the grenades corrode and will eventually start to
leak. The corrosion of these weapons is already so advanced that
identification of the former owners is virtually impossible. Consequently,
nobody can be made nowadays responsible for the ultimate elimination.
The US is responsible for 60 sea dumping
totaling about 100,000 tons (equal to 39 filled railroad box cars),
of chemical weapons filled with toxic materials in the Gulf of
Mexico, off the coast of New Jersey, California, Florida, and
South Carolina, and near India, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Japan,
Some of the above figures appear to
be not entirely coherent and do not add up well to the total,
demonstrating among other things that no careful bookkeeping had
been done during this inadmissible actions.
During the 1950s, the US conducted
an ambitious nerve gas program, manufacturing what would eventually
total 400,000 M-55 rockets, each of which was capable of delivering
a 5-kg payload of Sarin [11, 12]. Many of those rockets had manufacturing
defaults, their propellant breaking down in a manner that could
lead to auto ignition. For this reason in 1967 and 1968 51,180
nerve gas rockets were dropped 240 km off the coast of New York
State in depths 1'950 to 2,190 meters, and off the coast of Florida.
The CWC does not cover sea-dumped
chemical weapons; in fact it makes a clear exception for them
(CWC, Article III, § 2). The CWC does not provide the legal
basis to cover chemical weapons that were dumped before 1985.
They remain an uncontrollable time bomb.
3.4 The existing arsenal
The arsenal of chemical weapons has
to be subdivided into two categories:
(i) The "stockpile" of unitary chemical warfare (CW)
agents and ammunitions, comprising the material inside weapons
and chemicals in bulk storage, and
(ii) The "non-stockpile" material, including buried
chemical material, binary chemical weapons, recovered chemical
weapons, former facilities for chemical weapons production, and
other miscellaneous chemical warfare material.
3.4.1 The stockpile of unitary
chemical warfare agents and ammunition
The Defence Intelligence
Agency (DIA) in the US reports [13, 14]:
First country in the Middle East to
obtain chemical weapons training, indoctrination, and
material. It employed phosgene and mustard agent against
Yemeni Royalist forces in the mid-1960s, and some reports
claim that it also used an organophosphate nerve agent.
Developed its own offensive weapons
program. The 1990 DIA study reports that Israel maintains
a chemical warfare testing facility. Newspaper reports
suggest the facility be in the Negev desert.
It began developing chemical weapons
in the 1970s. It received chemical weapons from Egypt
in the 1970s, and indigenous production began in the 1980s.
It allegedly has two means of delivery: a 500-kilogram
aerial bomb, and chemical warheads for Scud-B missiles.
Two chemical munitions storage depots, at Khna Abu Shamat
and Furqlus. Centre D'Etude et Recherche Scientifique,
near Damascus, was the primary research facility. It is
building a new chemical-weapons factory near the city
Initiated a chemical and warfare program
in response to Iraq's use of mustard gas against Iranian
troops. At end of war military had been able to field
mustard and phosgene. Had artillery shells and bombs filled
with chemical agents. Was developing ballistic missiles.
Has a chemical-agent warhead for their surface-to-surface
Used chemical weapons repeatedly during
the Iraq-Iran war. Later it attacked Kurdish villagers
in northern Iraq with mustard and nerve gas. Since end
of Gulf War UN destroyed more than 480,0000 liters of
Iraq's chemical agents and 1.8 million liters of precursor
Obtained its first chemical agents from
Iran, using them against Chad in 1987. Opened its own
production facility in Rabta in 1988. May have produced
as much as 100 tons of blister and nerve agents before
a fire broke out in 1990. Is building a second facility
in an underground location at Tarhunah.
May have limited chemical warfare capability
in part because it acquired 50 CSS-2 ballistic missiles
from China. These highly inaccurate missiles are thought
to be suitable only for delivering chemical agents.
Program since 1960s, probably largest
in the region. Can produce "large quantities"
of blister, blood, and nerve agents.
Has the chemical infrastructure and
technical capability to produce chemical agents, had a
chemical weapons program.
Had CW stocks and weapons.
Has artillery projectiles and rockets
that can be made chemical-capable.
China has a mature chemical warfare
capability, including ballistic missiles.
Had an "aggressive high-priority
program to develop both offensive and defensive capabilities",
was developing chemical weapons capability, and in 1989,
it may be operational.
Its program, under development in 1983,
may or may not be active today. It has chemical weapons
and artillery for delivering chemical agents.
In 1988 was in the process of deploying,
or already had, chemical weapons. Also it captured large
stocks of US riot control agents during and at the end
of the Vietnam War.
The former Yugoslavia has a CW production
capability. Produced and weaponized Sarin, sulphur mustard,
BZ (a psychochemical incapacitant), and irritants CS and
CN. The Bosnians produced crude chemical weapons during
the 1992-1995 war.
Has research and production facilities
and chemical weapons stockpiles and storage facilities.
Has large chemical warfare program, and had developed
a cheaper method for synthesizing Sarin.
Pilot-plant chemical capabilities that
probably included Sarin, Soman, and possibly VX.
Has stockpile of chemical weapons, including
Has stockpile of chemical munitions
of Soviet origin.
Has the second largest arsenal of chemical
weapons in the world, consisting of ~31,000 tons of
chemicals, and 3.6 million grenades . The chemical
weapons contain about 12,000 tons of agents, and 19,000
tons are in bulk storage. Details on composition and
location are given in Table 1.
An estimate of the Russian stockpile
in 1993 puts it at ~40,000 agent tons, of which one-fourth
is of pre-World War II vintage. A larger portion seems
to be in bulk storage . Out of the officially declared
quantity 30,000 tons are phosphoric organic agents (Sarin,
Soman, VX), the remaining 10,000 tons are composed of
7,000 tons lewisite (in containers ?), 1,500 tons of
mixture of mustard gas and Lewisite (GB, GD, VX), and
1,500 tons mustard gas. Slightly different numbers on
the composition of the arsenal are given in ref. .
Some independent analysts believe that the 40,000 tons
formally declared by Russia is only a fraction of a
total of 100,000 to 200,000 tons, the rest of which
were probably disposed of in some manner .
|Locations of the US Unitary Chemical
||Percent of Stockpile
|Anniston Army Depot (ADAD),
||GB, HD, HT, VX
|Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG),
|Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD),
||GB, HD, VX
|Johnston Island (JI), Pacific
||GB, HD, VX
|Newport Chemical Activity (NECA),
|Pine Bluff Arsenal (PBA), Pine
||GB, HD, HT, VX
|Pueblo Depot Activity (PUDA),
|Tooele Army Depot (TEAD), Tooele,
||H, HD, HT, GA, GB, L, TGA, TGB,
|Umatilla Depot Activity (UMDA),
||GB, HD, VX
Non-persistent nerve gas agents:
Tabun (GA) and Sarin (GB) and their thickened products (TGA and
Mustard agents (H, HD and HT)
Persistent nerve agent (VX)
|Agents of the US Unitary Chemical Stockpile
||Percent of Stockpile
|US Binary Chemical Stockpile
Methylphosphonic difluoride (DF)
Isopropyl alcohol and isopropylamine (OPA)
Ethyl 2-diisoprpylaminoethyl methylphosphonite (QL)
Tables 1. US Unitary and Binary Chemical
The above tables give the location
of the nine depots and the variety of chemical weapons stored,
which is an indication for the complexity for their elimination
or transport problems.
The locations of the Soviet chemical
weapons are spread over large parts of the West-European and Asian
part of Russia at seven sites (Table 2 ). About 80 percent
are weaponized and consist mostly of organophosphorus nerve agents.
The remainder of the material is stored in bulk at two sites -
Kambarka and Gornyi.
||% of Stockpile
Table 2. Russia's chemical weapons
storage sites 
3.4.2 The non-stockpile material
Data on non-stockpile material are
scarce. Some estimates are available for the US . All the
material recovered in the US thus far contains only hundreds of
tons of agent and could, in theory, be placed in a single 8-metre-by-25-metre
storage building . A considerable amount of money will be
required for the destruction of all former facilities for chemical
weapons production constructed or used after January 1, 1946.
Abandoned chemical weapons do represent
a safety risk. Between 1985 and 1995 Dutch fishermen reported
more than 350 cases where chemical weapons, dumped into the Baltic
Sea, were caught in fishing nets, some resulting in serious burns.
In China during World War II the
Japanese left 678,729 chemical weapons. Recent negotiations resulted
in Japan's agreement to collect and destroy these weapons.
The most persistent agents - mustards
and lewisite - can remain dangerous for decades. Even after lewisite
breaks down, the resulting arsenic compounds can remain in soil
and contaminate ground water .
Recovery of ammunitions from World
War I still continues. Annual collections by France amount to
about 30-50 tons along the old front line, by Belgium to 17 tons
(c. 1,500 items) .
4. Elimination of Chemical Weapons
The CWC not only prohibits the use,
production, acquisition and transfer of chemical weapons, but
also requires the states-parties to destroy their existing weapons
and production facilities. For the US the deadline is April 29,
2007. The CWC prohibits disposal by dumping into a body of water,
land burial or open-pit burning, and requires that the chosen
technology destroy the chemical agent in an irreversible manner
that also protects the safety of humans and the environment.
4.1 Program, costs and status of
the destruction of the existing active arsenal
Since the weight of a typical chemical
weapon is roughly ten times that of the agent it contains, and
other nations may have as much as 10-15 percent of the combined
Russian and US stockpile, the mass of the material to be destroyed
comes to roughly 500,000 tons - nearly 100,000 truckloads of material.
In general, the ignition part of ammunition
has to be removed or inactivated prior to destruction. Then starts
the main part of elimination of the weapon. The US choose high-temperature
incineration and chemical neutralization as its preferred destruction
technique, which has to destroy the chemicals together with the
metal casing. The cost of this procedure can outrun the cost of
agent destruction many fold - in some cases by 10-20 times.
The process of elimination is a slow,
tedious one, with rising costs as time passes by. A bilateral
US - USSR agreement in June 1990 to destroy at least 50 percent
of their stockpiles by 1999 and to retain no more than 5,000 tons
of agent by 2002 is long outdated .
Since 1985, the US Army's cost estimate
for the stockpile disposal program has increased from estimates
in 1985 of $1.7 billion to $15.7 billion as of today, and its
projected completion date has slipped from 1994 to 2007 [16, 12].
At the end of 1999 about 22 percent of its chemicals had been
incinerated [8, 9].
The destruction of the Russian arsenal
faces both, financial and technical challenges  and is seriously
behind schedule. The first deadline imposed by the CWC - destruction
of 1 percent of stockpiles by April 29, 2000 - has already been
missed. Under the revised program approved by the Russian government
in July, this milestone will not be achieved until 2003, while
the entire destruction process is scheduled to last until 2012.
Russia does not want to copy the well-proven American incineration
technology. Its own neutralization-bituminization program has
not been developed beyond the laboratory bench, and therefore
had destroyed only a few thousand weapons . The idea of incineration
of their chemical weapon arsenal by nuclear explosion is studied
in Russia's former weapons laboratories . This procedure,
even if it is feasible deep underground, is not compatible with
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and will find also serious
resistance from environmentalists.
Most estimates for Russia's costs
are in the $6 billion to $8 billion range .
4.2 The abandoned weapons
Chemical weapons are buried on land,
dumped into the sea and simply lost at many places on our globe
. Finding, collecting and destroying them might be as difficult,
dangerous and time consuming as those of land mines.
The non-stockpile disposal program
is currently projected to cost $15.1 billion - nearly the cost
of the stockpile disposal program - and will take until 2033 to
complete . There the major cost factor arises from the difficulties
of detection of scattered chemical weapons, due to insufficient
book-keeping, the necessity to design and built new mobile disposal
systems, and last not least overcoming the public opposition of
destruction or transporting lethal CW in the vicinity of habitats.
The provisions in the CWC will not apply to weapons buried on
its territory before 1 January 1977.
4.4 A Comparison of chemical weapons
agents with other waste
Our civilization produces a great
variety of waste products, with differing degrees of danger for
the environment and people. They range from household waste, electronic
waste from the information age, to toxic waste from chemical factories,
by-products of the mining industry, coal and oil firing, and last
not least to those from military and civil use of nuclear energy.
Among these waste products is a largely unknown environmental
hazard due to the one-to-two-hundred tons of Mercury, that have
been discharged into nature during the manufacturing of nuclear
weapons in the US (mainly at Oak Ridge, also at Hanford/Washington).
Its impact on the food chain can become catastrophic on a regional
level . Even the most widely used propellant of weapons, Trinitrotoluol
or TNT, is a threat to the environment because of its persistency
and its ability to enter easily into ground water.
A crude estimate of
the importance of the chemical weapon waste relative to other
human waste production can be made taking data from the annual
production of waste in kilogram per inhabitant in France:
|Household (kitchen garbage, diverse domestic
|Agriculture (plastic, farming scrap)
|Industrial waste (metal waste, iron, non-iron,
powders, technology waste)
|thereof classified as toxic waste
|Nuclear waste (packaged)
Annual waste production in kilogram per person in France 
And by assuming that waste production
per person in France (population 58 million) and the United States
(population 267 million) is comparable (probably an underestimation
of the US figures), the total waste of these categories can be
estimated for the US in tons per year:
|thereof toxic waste
|Chemical weapons waste
Crude estimate of annual waste production in the US
It is assumed that the 30,000 tons
of US chemical weapons material were accumulated over ~60 years,
i.e. on the average 500 tons produced per year. The above order
of magnitude estimate shows, that nuclear and chemical
weapons wastes are in the same ball part, but are hundred thousand
times smaller than the other toxic/dangerous waste. Due to the
complexity of the toxic items, a qualitative comparison of present
and future dangers for mankind and environment by taking only
the quantitative aspects into consideration can and should not
be made since it may lead to wrong conclusions.
5. Non-lethal chemical weapons
All weapons are made out of chemical
elements, be it the metal shell of a grenade, sometimes made of
depleted uranium, the explosive agent to propel it or the material
filled into its encasing. The dangers of highly toxic, volatile
rocket fuel on the delivery systems of nuclear warheads in Russia
may be very high . For this simple reason alone it is difficult
to come up with an all-encompassing definition for chemical weapons.
Are chemicals still material of weapons
if they are used in very low concentrations? The latter point
may be illustrated by the double use of Zyklon B (or Cyclon B
in English), that is used as fumigant for the purpose of pest
and vermin control. It had been applied in low concentration
in a beneficial way in the Nazi concentration camp of Dachau,
while utilized in high concentration in the gas chambers
of Auschwitz, it lead to one of the most criminal acts committed
in the twentieth century .
Dozens of technologies are being studied
or developed under the elastic rubric of "non-lethal weapons"
. They include infrasound, supercaustics, irritants like tear
gas, and all those that could be aimed at non-human targets -
such as combustion inhibitors, chemicals that can immobilize machinery
or destroy airplane tires. The text of the CWC does not give always
an unambiguous answer or definition what is a chemical weapon
agent. It could be asked if the following agents fall into the
category of chemical weapons, some of them old as war , like
(i) Military Smoke Agents, (ii) Incendiaries
producing fires and burns of skin? Where do the recently used
or newly developed ones belong, like (iii) Sticky Foam,
Super Lubricants ("slickums and stickums"),
or (iv) Pulsed Chemical Laser Beams? A special case
takes (v) Depleted Uranium Ammunition, which can
be considered a biological or a radiological weapon.
The preamble to the Convention
on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional
Weapons Which May Be Deemed To Be Excessively Injurious or To
Have Indiscriminate Effects (CCW), and less formally referred
to as the "Inhuman Weapons Convention", expressed
the wish for amendments . Among those was the elimination
of laser weapons, which are now banned by the Protocol IV,
which was adopted by the Conference of the States Parties
to the Convention and entered into force on 30 July 1998 [28,
Other weapons are being negotiated,
like submunitions in the form of bomblets assembled in clusters
and delivered by aircraft or by artillery, rockets or guided missiles,
be equipped with devices making them harmless if they fail to
explode. One canister may contain 50 bomblets, or 600, or even
as many as 4,700, depending on the model, and may cover a ground
area from 100 to 250 meters in diameter. The bomblets, when fitted
with delayed action fuses, are effective area-denial weapons.
Usually about 30% fail to explode and remain as mines, like many
in Kosovo after the 1999 war.
Depleted Uranium (DU) ,
which draw a lot of public attention in the recent decade, is
a by-product of enriching natural uranium - increasing the proportion
of the U235 atom which is the only form of uranium that can sustain
a nuclear reaction and is used in nuclear reactors or nuclear
weapons. The remaining depleted uranium has practically no commercial
value. The Department of Energy in the US (DoE) has a 560,000-metric-ton
stockpile, with very limited civilian use as a coloring matter
in pottery or as a steel-alloying constituent . Depleted uranium
is chemically toxic like other heavy metals such as lead, but
can produce adversary health effects being an alpha particle emitter
with radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years.
In the 1950's the US became interested
in using depleted uranium metal in weapons because it is extremely
dense, pyrophoric, cheap, and available in high quantities. Kinetic
energy penetrators do not explode; they fragment and burn through
armour due to the pyrophoric nature of uranium metal and the extreme
flash temperatures generated on impact. They contaminate areas
with extremely fine radioactive and toxic dust. This in turn can
cause kidney damage, cancers in the lung and bone, non-malignant
respiratory decease, skin disorders, neurocognitive disorders,
chromosomal damage, and birth defects . Depleted uranium weapons
are proliferating and are likely to become commonly used in land
warfare. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia,
Greece, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt,
Thailand, Taiwan and Pakistan are possessing or manufacture depleted
uranium weapons. Many NATO countries may follow suite. These weapons
were used in large quantities first in the 1991 Gulf War [33,
34], and then again during the Kosovo War in 1999 . The question
can be asked if DU is mainly a chemical, or a radiological weapon?
An immediate answer is not to be expected before classified material
becomes available, and the medical reason for the Golf-War Syndrome
is identified, which shows up in thousands of American soldiers.
It appears that effect of the radioactive by inhalation of small
doses will have only a small impact on risk to die of cancer,
whereas the heavy metal effect seems to dominate . Be it as
it might be, depleted uranium is dangerous, but is pales in comparison
with the other direct and indirect effects of war.
Due to their double use properties,
some chemical weapons may be masked as pesticides, fertilizers,
dyes, herbicides, or defoliants. Between 1962 and 1971 more than
72 million liter herbicides were distributed over South Viet Nam
, thereof more than 44 million liter were the defoliant agent
orange, containing about 170 kg dioxin. American scientists
developed a means of thickening gasoline with the aluminum soap
of naphtenic and palmitic acids into a sticky syrup that carries
further from projectors and burns more slowly but at a higher
temperature. This mixture, known as Napalm, can also be
used in aircraft or missile-delivered warheads against military
or civilian targets. A small, high explosive charge scatters the
flaming liquid, which sticks to what it hits until burned out.
Is Napalm still only a herbicide even when used in too large a
quantity, and then accidentally affecting humans?
White phosphorous is used as a shell
and grenade filler in combination with a small high-explosive
charge. It is both an incendiary and the best-known producer of
vivid white smoke. Small bits of it burn even more intensely than
Napalm when they strike personnel.
Herbicides are not covered by the
Convention but they are banned under the Prohibition of Military
or any other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques
(ENMOD), adopted by the UN General Assembly on the 10th of December
1976 and entered into force the 5th of October 1978 .
In order to curb the production of
chemical weapons, require their identification, e.g. by trace
elements in ammunition!
6. Old and New Biological Weapons
The use of biological agents as weapon
has always an even more adverse world opinion than chemical warfare.
A SIPRI Monograph describes among other topics the changing view
of biological and toxin warfare agents, the new generation of
biological weapons, the changing status of toxin weapons, a new
generation of vaccines against biological and toxin weapons, and
the implications of the BWC .
Claims that biological agents have
been used as weapons of war can be found in both the written records
and the artwork of many early civilizations . As early as
300 BC the Greeks polluted the wells and drinking water supplies
of their enemies with the corpses of animals. Later the Romans
and Persians used the same tactics. In 1155 at a battle in Tortona,
Italy, Barbarossa broadened the scope of biological warfare, using
the bodies of dead soldiers as well as animals to pollute wells.
In 1863 during the US Civil War, General Johnson used the bodies
of sheep and pigs to pollute drinking water at Vicksburg. The
use of catapults as weapons was well established by the medieval
period, and projecting over the walls dead bodies of those dead
of disease was an effective strategy for besieging armies. In
1763 the history of biological warfare took a significant turn
from the crude use of diseased corpses to the introduction of
specific decease, smallpox ("Black Death"), as a weapon
in the North American Indian Wars. This technique continued with
cholera or typhus infected corpses. In 1915, during World War
I, Germany was accused of using cholera in Italy and plague in
St. Petersburg. There is evidence Germany used glanders and anthrax
to infect horses (1914) and cattle, respectively, in Bucharest
in 1916, and employed similar tactics to infect 4,500 mules in
Mesopotamia the next year.
The period 1940 - 1969 can be considered
the golden age of biological warfare research and development.
Especially the 1940s were the most comprehensive period of biological
warfare research and development.
The US had signed the Geneva Protocol,
but the Senate voted only in 1974 on it. Detailed information
on the history of the US Offensive Biological Warfare Program
between 1941 and 1973 can be found in ref. .
It has been reported recently that
the US tested a Soviet-designed germ bomb and assembled a germ
factory in the Nevada desert from commercially available materials,
in particular to produce potentially more potent variant of the
bacterium that causes anthrax, a deadly disease ideal for germ
warfare . It is debatable if such a research is consistent
with the treaty banning biological weapons.
The Former Soviet Union had an important
biological weapons program, which might have extended well into
the period after its dissolution .
For a decade after 1972 there was
hope that the problem of Biological Warfare was going to be eradicated.
However, the last two decades have produced indications that some
eight developing nations, in addition to China and Israel, have
initiated biological weapon development programs of varying degrees.
6.1 Definitions 
Biological warfare (BW) agents, or
biological weapons, are 'living organisms, whatever their nature,
or infectious material derived from them, which are intended to
cause disease or death in man, animal, and plants, and which depend
for their effects on their ability to multiply in the person,
the animal, or plant attacked'. BW agents, however, might
be used not only in wars, but also by terrorists. One should therefore
refer to living organisms 'used for hostile purposes'.
The Biological Weapons
Convention (BWC) prohibits bacteria such as salmonella
being used against soldiers. It would permit bacteria, that eat
petroleum or rubber for the destruction of equipment for peaceful
purposes, but prohibits their use for hostile application.
6.2 Toxic warfare agents and other
chemical warfare agents
Toxins are poisonous substances usually
produced by living organisms. Toxin warfare (TW) agents, or toxic
weapons, are toxins used for hostile purposes. TW agents unequivocally
are types of chemical warfare (CW) agent. CW agents, or chemical
weapons, are chemical substances whether gaseous, liquid, or solid,
which are used for hostile purposes to cause disease or death
in humans, animals or plants and which depend on their direct
toxicity for their primary effect.
TW agents, like all other CW agents,
are inanimate and are incapable of multiplying. They are CW agents
irrespective of whether they are produced by a living organism
or by chemical synthesis or even whether they are responsible
for the qualification of that organism as a BW agent.
Nevertheless, TW agents are often
mistakenly considered to be biological weapons, and definitions
of biological warfare (BW) occasionally include TW agents. New
chemical weapons agents, who are 5 to 10 times more dangerous
than VX, the most dangerous toxic gas known today.
The successful control of biological
weapons is a daunting task . Ensuring safety from biological
and toxin weapons is a more complex issue than totally prohibiting
chemical or nuclear weapons. This is due to the character of the
relevant technologies. More than those, biotechnology is of dual-use,
i.e. the same technology can be used for civilian and permitted
military defensive purposes as well as for prohibited offensive
or terrorist purposes.
6.3 Biological Warfare against
Intentionally unleashing organisms
that kill an enemy's food crops is a potentially devastating weapon
of warfare and terrorism . All major food crops come in a
number of varieties, each usually suited to specific climate and
soil conditions. These varieties have varying sensitivities to
particular diseases. Crop pathogens, in turn, come in different
strains or races and can be targeted efficiently against those
crop brands. This way it might be possible to attack the enemy's
food stock, but preventing damage to the own. However, such a
strategy may not work for neighboring countries, where agricultural
conditions are similar to the aggressor. The spread of those organisms
holds the risk of worldwide epidemic, and the use of these weapons
may very well be counter productive. Any such warfare would be
directed primarily against the civilian population. Due to the
delays involved it would not affect immediately the outcome of
Nevertheless, many countries developed
during the twentieth century anticrop substances.
Iraq manufactured from the 70s onward
wheat smut fungus, targeting wheat plants in Iran. France's biological
weapon program by the end of the 1930s included work on two potato
killers. During the Second World War the British concentrated
on various herbicides. Germany investigated during the same period
diseases like late blight of potatoes and leaf-infecting yellow
and black wheat rusts, as well as insect pests, such as the Colorado
beetle. Japan's World War II biological weapons program is not
too well known, but it contains pathogens and chemical herbicides.
The American efforts were substantial. They centered on products
attacking crops of soybeans, sugar beets, sweet potatoes and cotton,
intended to destroy wheat in the western Soviet Union, and rice
in Asia, mainly China. Between 1951 and 1969 the U.S. stockpiled
more than 30,000 kilograms of the fungus that causes stem rust
of wheat, a quantity probably enough to infect every wheat plant
on the planet . According to another source  36,000 kilograms
of wheat stem rust, and additional quantity of stem rust of rye,
only 900 kilograms of rice blast were produced and stockpiled.
The U.S., using the "feather bomb" and free-floating
balloons developed ingenious distribution and transport systems.
7. WMD: Warfare, Terrorism, Comparative
The concept of weapons of mass destruction
(WMD) should be revisited, as pointed out in the Introduction
of this article. Physical efficiency and psychological effect
of these weapons may differ considerably when they are used in
warfare on soldiers or in peacetime by terrorists. Industrialized
countries can develop reliable and sophisticated technologies,
which may not be available to small groups.
7.1 Weapons in Warfare
The efficiency of weapons in warfare
is closely related to the time parameter:
- Number of enemy casualties in a given period,
- Number of weapons employed to obtain the
- Delivery time of weapons,
- Possibility for stockpiling over extended
- Infrastructure affected by its use,
- Avoidance of negative impact upon own troops
and civil population,
- End a war quickly,
- No efficient defense against weapons on short
or long term.
Evidently, nuclear weapons are
"superior" to any other weapons on all these points.
Is a specific weapon category useful in conflicts between countries
and/or in civil war? Can it serve as a deterrent? Does its use
have long term effects on the crop area?
The efficiency of chemical and biological
weapons depends heavily on its dispersion, upon the weather condition,
determining the exposure and lethality for the combatants. A presumptive
agent must not only be highly toxic, but also 'suitably highly
toxic', so that it is not too difficult to handle by the user.
It must be possible to store the substance in containers for long
periods without degradation and without corroding the packaging
material. Such an agent must be relatively resistant to atmospheric
water and oxygen so that it does not lose its effect when dispersed.
It must also withstand the shearing forces created by the explosion
and heat when it is dispersed. Transport of these agents by long-range
missiles and efficient distribution will face enormous difficulties,
causing their decomposition, mainly due to the heat development
of the warhead at re-entry into the atmosphere. A few developed
countries may already be capable to overcome these hurdles .
Finding an answer to these questions
can be facilitated by evaluation of previous wars.
In World War I an average of one
ton of agent was necessary to kill just one soldier.
Chemical weapons caused 5 percent of the casualties. The use of
chemical weapons did not end the war quickly as had been predicted.
During the war between Iraq and Iran through March 1997 27,000
Iranians were exposed to chemical grenades, only 265 died. During
the entire war between these two countries chemical weapons killed
5,000, out of the total 600,000 from all causes, i.e. less than
1 percent .
The efficiency of chemical/biological
weapons in future wars is difficult to predict. Estimates cover
a wide range, as shown below.
Under ideal conditions 1 ton of Sarin
dropped from an airplane could produce 3,000 to 8,000 deaths,
however, under breezy conditions only 300 to 800 . To obtain
a sensible effect requires that airplanes fly at very low altitude
(less than about 100 meters), and consequently the zone of lethality
that could be covered remains small. Furthermore, agent particles
larger than 10 micrometers do not reach the non-ciliated alveolar
region in the lungs, and those, with a size of about 1-micrometer
are exhaled. The optimal size is somewhere between 10 to 5 micrometers,
which can not be obtained easily. Sunlight kills or denatures
most biological agents. Anthrax efficiency may drop by a factor
of thousand when the agent is used during a sunny day. Therefore,
the agents have to be sprayed during nighttime.
Chemical weapons depend more than
other armament upon atmospheric and topographical factors, whilst
temperature, weather and terrain are important factors in determining
the persistence of a given chemical agent. Chemical attacks can
contaminate an area for between several hours and several days.
Weight-for-weight, biological weapons are hundreds to thousands
of times more potent than the most lethal chemical weapon [47.
48]. Contamination time is between several hours and several weeks.
A Scud missile warhead filled with
botulinum could contaminate an area of 3,600 square kilometers,
or 16 times greater than the same warhead filled with the nerve
agent Sarin .
A United Nations study  compared
the hypothetical results of an attack carried out by one strategic
bomber using either nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. A
one-megaton nuclear bomb, the study found, might kill 90 percent
of unprotected people over an area of 300 square kilometers. A
chemical weapon of 15 tons might kill 50 percent of the people
in a 60 square kilometer area. But a 10-ton biological weapon
could kill 25 percent of the people, and make 50 percent ill,
over an area of 100,000 square kilometers.
If a ballistic missile hits a city
delivering 30 kilograms of anthrax spores in a unitary warhead
against a city with no civil defense measure could result in lethal
inhalation dosage levels over an area of roughly 5 to 25 square
kilometers. With no treatment, most of the infected population
would die within a week or two. For typical urban population densities
this could result in the deaths of tens of thousands or even hundreds
of thousands of people .
Exaggerated, counterproductive, essentially
incorrect, and even dangerous remarks by a US high-ranking official
have been made. He claimed that about 2.5 kilograms of anthrax
if released in the air over Washington, DC, would kill half of
its population, that is, 300,000 people (TV, Nov.1997). In March
1988, four of the most qualified experts on anthrax serving in
the US government published a paper in the Archives of Internal
Medicine which used a different estimate: 50 kilograms of
anthrax released over a city of 500,000 people could kill up to
95,000 people, and possible fewer, depending on urban atmospheric
conditions. The first estimate was approximately 100 times higher
These above efficiencies assume, however,
that chemical and biological agents can be spread over a large
surface and reach the ground level, whereas nuclear weapons can
be exploded at any predetermined altitude and on ground level
with the desired efficiency.
7.2 Weapons for Terrorists
There is a largely unjustified fear
of the public concerning terrorist attacks with chemical or biological
agents, their impact on daily life, their frequency, and number
of people possibly affected.
Between 1960 and 1980 there have been
40,000 international terror incidents (according to CIA), but
only 22 out of them were performed with chemical or biological
agents, showing a tiny ratio of 1/2,000. From 1900 till today
there occurred 71 terrorist acts worldwide involving the use of
biological or chemical agents, resulting in 123 fatalities, among
those only one was American, hit by a cyanide-laced bullet. These
acts produced 3,774 nonfatal injuries (784 Americans, 751 out
of them by salmonella food poisoning by an Oregan-based religious
sect). During the first nine decades of the 20th century there
have been 70 biological attacks (18 by terrorists), causing 9
The Aum-Shinrikyo sect in Japan had
about $1 billion (another source gives $1.2 to 1.6 billion) at
its disposal for development of chemical and biological weapons.
- Aum had appropriate equipment (even more
than it was necessary).
- Aum had used commercial front companies to
buy the equipment.
- Aum may have spent about $10 million in their
effort to produce biological agents.
- Several of the individuals had post-graduate
- Aum had gathered a research library.
- Aum had sufficient time - four years - for
- Aum had attempted to purchase expertise in
Russia and obtain or purchase disease strains in Japan.
However, Aum failed to produce either
of two biological agents, Clostridium botulinum,
to obtain Botulinum toxin, and anthrax, and also did not manage
to "disperse" them. Despite its efforts, spending $10
million on the development of biological agents. Aum sprayed botulinum
toxin over Tokyo several times in 1990, and conducted similar
activities with anthrax spores in 1993, but without any known
effects. Actually, the cult had used a relatively harmless anthrax
vaccine strain and the aerosolizer had no sufficient efficiency
There are two well-publicized Aum
attacks with chemical agents (Matsumoto, 3 kg of
pure Sarin, 1994; Tokyo subway, 6-7 kg 30% pure Sarin, 1995),
the latter made in a confined area, limiting a detrimental effect
of air current. Nevertheless, the Matsumoto assault killed only
seven non-targeted innocents, and in Tokyo only twelve people
died from direct contact with the liquid and not from fumes .
A more detailed description of risk
assessment by terrorism with chemical and biological weapons can
be found in . This article provides results from computer
simulation for dispersion of chemical and biological agents under
various atmospheric conditions and their impact parameters on
7.3 Comparative Perspective
Analysts have defined Mass Casualty
as anything between 100 and 1,000 individuals arriving at hospitals.
The numbers in the previous section are related to deaths, and
a factor of up to about ten has to be applied to encompass individuals
suffering non-lethal injuries. Evidently, similar factors have
to be used for victims of conventional weapons in war.
In the discussion of biological agent
terrorism as a potential mass casualty event it is quite revealing
to look at the annual mortality in several public health sectors
in the USA :
| Food-borne disease incidence:
||76 million cases per year
||315,000 hospitalizations per year
||5,000 deaths per year
| Medical error mortality:
||between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths per year
| Hospital contracted infections:
||20,000 deaths per year
| The 1993 cryptosporidium outbreak
Milwaukee (water pollution)
sickened 400,000 people
| Air pollution in the US results in
||50,000 deaths per year
| Firearms result in
||35,000 death per year.
Compared with these data, the impact
of biological and chemical agents terrorism in the past is negligible
and will remain probably (hopefully!) small.
8. Implementation of the Chemical
and Biological Weapons Convention and Conclusions
Like most scientific and industrial
developments there is the possibility to apply them for the good
or for the bad. The responsibility of the scientists, as well
as the politicians and military, is challenged. The production
of the basic material for military or civilian application is
closely intertwined. This makes any inspection and accusation
of intended military use extraordinary difficult. In addition
manufacturers fear for their patents and are worried about industrial
Production of biological warfare agents
can be done in any hospital or basement rooms in small quantities
by qualified personal, for chemicals it requires larger plants.
The 121 States Parties and 48 signatory states of the Chemical
Weapons Convention have an implementation body, the Organisation
for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is operational
since two years from The Hague . It performed already more
than 500 inspections. The OPCW has about 500 staff members, consisting
of 200 inspectors and 300 administrative staff. Out of these 300
administrators most are verification experts and inspection planers.
Among the most important old issues are: guidelines for low concentrations,
the usability of old and abandoned chemical weapons. As mentioned
above the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) does not cover sea-dumped
There has not yet been progress in
the establishment of an analogue organization for Biological and
Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). It might be placed in The Hague
or in Geneva. Work on the protocol to strengthen the Biological
Weapons Convention, as well as the verification protocol is still
in its initial state, and a success of the 5th BWC
Review Conference to be held in Geneva in November 2001 is not
at all assured . Of the 141 States Parties to the BWC only
around 60 send delegations to the Ad Hoc Group (AHG). Not all
of the AHG accept the concept of random visits. The establishment
of an international organization to oversee the implementation
of the BWC protocol is estimated to consist out of a staff of
233 people and an annual cost of approximately $30 million. There
might be eventually about 70 inspectors carrying out approximately
100 visits per year. One of the disputed topics is related to
new forms of biological weapons, caused by the biotechnology revolution
. The delivery system or the efficiency of these new agents
has not changed, but their capability to manipulate human life
processes themselves. Biological weapons should now be seen as
a global threat to the human species, but not as an efficient
weapon in warfare.
Inspections of biological agents will
hit more resistance by the pharmaceutical and bio-technical industry
than the one in the chemical industry.
The dangerous leftovers from the chemical
weapons race, like the ones from nuclear weapons construction,
not to forget the land mines, will be still with us for a long
time. Ethics, politics and international security should be closely
interlaced to remove these inhuman weapons from Earth. There is
an excellent opportunity for fruitful collaboration between defense
conversion sector and the environmental community.
The CBWC has certainly the beneficial
effect in reducing the arsenal of old weapons, but will not give
a guarantee that new, clandestine developments in various countries
will go on unnoticed.
The difficulty to use these weapons
efficiently is in general underestimated, but their impact exaggerated.
This combination causes unjustifiable fear of the public and leads
policy makers to wrong conclusions, among them to designate them
as WMDs and keep nuclear weapons as a deterrent.
The critical, comparative assessment
of the three types of weapons (one may want to include radiological
weapons) presented in this article are not intended to slow down
efforts for the elimination of chemical and biological weapons.
The CBWC should remain an important treaty and negotiations on
enforcement provisions should be accelerated, so that it can be
eventually fully implemented. In particular, the arsenal of
unused weapons, being in storage or "disposed"
in the oceans or elsewhere, presents a considerable danger on
short and long term for humans and the environment. Anybody killed
by these weapons is one too much. However, we have to put these
weapons and the ratified conventions in the right quantitative
In the view of the author most of
the conventional weapons, in particular small arms, are weapons
of Mass Killing: According to a Red Cross inquiry
 Assault Rifles, like AK47s, Handguns, and Land Mines,
caused 64%, 10% and 10% of civilian casualties, respectively.
The remaining 16% are almost equally shared between Hand Grenades,
Artillery (including fragmentation and incinerating bombs), Mortars,
and Major Weapons. During the 20th century these weapons had
been used to kill 34 million soldiers in combat, 80 million civilians,
plus soldiers who died from wounds, accidents or disease. The
world was "fortunate" that only two nuclear bombs
have been dropped in warfare until now. They killed "only"
~200,000 people. Nevertheless, the nuclear arsenal has to be on
the top of the WMD-category, since it has the potential to erase
humans from our planet in almost no time.
Maintaining nuclear weapons by the
Nuclear Weapon States (NWSs) to deter production and stockpiling
of chemical and biological weapons, mainly in countries of
concern, can only be interpreted as an unjustifiable, unreasonable
pretext to keep nuclear weapons indefinitely in stock. Is it politically
wise to change the unfortunate, misleading definition of weapons
of mass destruction (WMD = NW + CW + BW), repeated again
and again in the media, and deeply engraved into the mind of people?
Will a new definition distract from the importance of the two,
universally ratified treaties? Might it be counterproductive to
do so in a time, where scientists are under increasing scrutiny
The author felt that informing the
educated public and policy makers on a re-definition of WMD
warrants the change and outweighs possible negative repercussions.
I like to thank Professor W.K.H. Panofsky
for carefully reading a previous version of this article, and
for valuable criticism and useful suggestions. Dr. Milton Leitenberg
is thanked for providing a lot of relevant literature and sharing
with me his profound knowledge and insight into the problem of
biological warfare and terrorism. I profited much from participation
in workshops in Como/Italy and Rome, organized by Professor Maurizio
Martellini, and thank him for the kind invitation to these events.
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