"Real" Deal about Nuclear, Bio, and Chem Attacks.
October 21, 2001 7:15 PM   Subscribe

"Real" Deal about Nuclear, Bio, and Chem Attacks. I've also seen this in the newsgroups, but it hasn't come to my various email accounts yet. While the article seems pretty reasonable, there doesn't seem to be any info on who this SFC Red Thomas is, nor is there any scientific backup (no links to further reading etc.).
posted by youthbc1 (4 comments total)
Don't know how accurate he is concerning potential damage but his descriptions of symptoms and treatments by military personnel is dead on. In fact, I have my soldier's basic skills manual and it's pretty much word for word. The part where I might question his damage potential assesment is in that there is an assumption that the NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical) attack is delivered via conventional means. For instance, if released on an airliner, you cannot move upwind or escape the area. Also, another statement he made that made me question how well he had thought out the threat scenarios was when he said that "Blister agents (distilled mustard) are so nasty that nobody wants to even handle it let alone use it.". Uh dude, we just had 19 people crash (or try to) airplanes into buildings. You could walk into a crowded building with a fire extinguisher full of the stuff, expose an entire floor of people and then put a pistol to your head so you could avoid the eventual suffering of the chemical. Granted, he is correct in saying these are not weapons of mass destruction as a nuclear device would be but I think he's not giving terrorists enough credit for ingenuity.
posted by billman at 7:45 PM on October 21, 2001

Though I'm not really overly concerned with any of these over-hyped threats, his comment about "cyanide" caught my eye. That's some wicked shit; it essentially fools your hemoglobin into thinking it's oxygen. Get a big enough whiff, and you can be on a respirator and it won't matter (you essentially sufficate cuz your body thinks it already has plenty of air). Granted, it's not the most efficient mode of attack, but it makes up for this by the fact that it's readily available (mostly as an industrial solvent and in electro-plating). I had always assumed this would be more common than smallpox (where they gonna get it?), anthrax, or sarin. He writes:

The telltale smells are bitter almonds or garlic where it shouldn't be. The symptoms are blue lips, blue under the fingernails rapid breathing. The military's antidote is amyl nitride and just like nerve agent antidote it just keeps your body working for five minutes till the toxins are used up. Fresh air is the your best individual chance.

Three points:
--(1) A significant number of people cannot smell it. (Upwards of 20%).
--(2) If you're already cyanotic (ie: turning blue from lack of oxygen), you're pretty far along. I'm not sure if "Take a deep breathe of fresh air" is gonna help much.
--(3) The traditional treatment cited (ie: amyl nitrate) is only available by prescription in the U.S., so not many people are gonna have any vaporoles on hand.

Note: Not a doctor -- I just play one on MeFi.
posted by RavinDave at 10:46 PM on October 21, 2001

"Wash your hands often, don't share drinks, food, sloppy kisses, etc., ... with strangers." Mothers everywhere, take a bow--this is just what you taught us!
posted by Carol Anne at 6:03 AM on October 22, 2001

"...They don't work when it's freezing..." is true, but they perform quite well when brought into a warm environment.

A common prank in the Army in Alaska is to dust a visiting unit's area with riot control agent (CS gas). Nobody notices the stuff when it's freezing outside. However, everybody eventually comes into the nice warm tents. The agent warms up and as the ice and snow it's trapped in evaporates, it makes the whole tent into a training exercise.

Biological and chemical weapons respond the same way. However, with the bio weapons, there are some forms that can not take extreme cold temperatures.
posted by nickonomicon at 7:12 AM on October 22, 2001

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