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poison gas,any of various gases sometimes used in warfare or riot control because of their poisonous or corrosive nature. These gases may be roughly grouped according to the portal of entry into the body and their physiological effects. Vesicants (blister gases) produce blisters on all body surfaces (see lewisitelewisite
, liquid chemical compound used as a poison gas. Like mustard gas and nitrogen mustard, it is a blistering agent; when inhaled, it is a powerful respiratory irritant.
..... Click the link for more information. ; mustard gasmustard gas,
chemical compound used as a poison gas in World War I. The burning sensation it causes on contact with the skin is similar to that caused by oil from black mustard seeds.
..... Click the link for more information. ); lacrimators (tear gastear gas,
gas that causes temporary blindness through the excessive flow of tears resulting from irritation of the eyes. The gas is used in chemical warfare and as a means for dispersing mobs.
..... Click the link for more information. ) produce severe eye irritation; sternutators (vomiting gases) cause nausea; nerve gasesnerve gas,
any of several poison gases intended for military use, e.g., tabun, sarin, soman, and VX. Nerve gases were first developed by Germany during World War II but were not used at that time.
..... Click the link for more information. inhibit proper nerve function; and lung irritants attack the respiratory tract, causing pulmonary edema. By the middle of the 19th cent. the possibility of the use of poison gas as a weapon was already envisaged and was viewed by most people with a peculiar horror—a feeling that has persisted. The first effective use of poison gas came in World War I, when the Germans released (1915) chlorine gas against the Allies in the Ypres sector of the Western Front. The success was immediate, but the attackers, uncertain as to the effect, failed to pursue the retreating French. Shortly afterward protective measures (see gas maskgas mask,
face covering or device used to protect the wearer from injurious gases and other noxious materials by filtering and purifying inhaled air. In addition to military use (see chemical warfare), gas masks are employed in mining, in industrial chemistry, and by firemen and
..... Click the link for more information. ) were introduced as both sides used gas more extensively. The gas shell (much more suitable than wind-blown gas) was introduced by the French. Gas did not have any dominant influence on the course of the war, but it did seem to point toward wide-scale use in the future. However, except for the use of poison gas by the Italians in the war against Ethiopia (1935–36) and by the Japanese against Chinese guerrillas (1937–42), poison gas was not employed in warfare after World War I out of fear of retribution, even though the military powers of the world continued to develop new gases. Poison gas was used in the Iran-Iraq War, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein used poison gas on its own civilians, in particular the Kurds. In the Persian Gulf War, the UN troops were equipped with antidotes for nerve gas, protective clothing, and gas masks in case Iraq used poison gas. Poison gas also has been used during the Syrian civil war (2010s). The 1989 treaty between the United States and the USSR provided for an end to production of poison gas and the beginning of destruction of current stockpiles. See also chemical warfarechemical warfare,
employment in war of incendiaries, poison gases, and other chemical substances. Ancient armies attacking or defending fortified cities threw burning oil and fireballs. A primitive type of flamethrower was employed as early as the 5th cent. B.C.
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poison gas[′pȯiz·ən ′gas]
A substance employed in chemical warfare to disable enemy troops; may be a gas, or a liquid or solid that gives off a gas. An example is mustard gas.