What we knew in 1942 – Chemical Warfare Agents

by HazMatNation.com staff

A staff member came across the ‘Handbook for Air Raid Wardens’ published by the Office of Civilian Defense in 1942 after a recent death in his family. We wanted to share some of the information found in a handbook that is over 70 years old.

Chemical Warfare Agents, table from Air Raid Wardens Handbook -HazMatNation.com

Chemical Warfare Agents, table from Air Raid Wardens Handbook -HazMatNation.com

The handbook includes a chapter on ‘War Gases’ which provides the above table. The agents listed are: Mustard, Lewisite, Chlorpicrin, Diphosgene, Phosgene, Cloracetophenone, Brombenzylcyanide, Adamsite, and Diphenylchlorarsine.  The table contains information on everything from chemical structure to first aid and PPE recommendations.  The reference chart also includes the ‘odor’ for each deadly agent.  (See our article on ‘Making sense of scents‘)

As this is written, they (war gases) have not been used against the British or others trained to protect themselves.  They have been used against the Ethiopians and the Chinese.

The handbook cites that at press time, 1942: ‘As this is written, they (war gases) have not been used against the British or others trained to protect themselves.  They have been used against the Ethiopians and the Chinese.’  Mustard gas and another ‘poison gas’ was used in 1935 in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War according to Wikipedia.  ‘Arsenical smokes were known to the Chinese as far back as c. 1000 BC’ as found in Wikipedia Chem Gas.  The reference continues with PPE recommendations,  decontamination suggestions for ‘blister agents’ but warns ‘reading (the guide-sic) will not by itself make you an expert in gas defense’.

How to properly create a gas-tight room as found in Air Raid Wardens Handbook 1942 - HMN

How to properly create a gas-tight room as found in Air Raid Wardens Handbook 1942 – HMN

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