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Toxicity of the Organophosphate Chemical Warfare Agents GA, GB, and VX: Implications for Public Protection

Nancy B. Munro, Kathleen R. Ambrose and Annetta P. Watson
Environmental Health Perspectives
Vol. 102, No. 1 (Jan., 1994), pp. 18-38
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4640385
Page Count: 21
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Toxicity of the Organophosphate Chemical Warfare Agents GA, GB, and VX: Implications for Public Protection
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Abstract

The nerve agents, GA, GB, and VX are organophosphorus esters that form a major portion of the total agent volume contained in the U.S. stockpile of unitary chemical munitions. Congress has mandated the destruction of these agents, which is currently slated for completion in 2004. The acute, chronic, and delayed toxicity of these agents is reviewed in this analysis. The largely negative results from studies of genotoxicity, carcinogenicity, developmental, and reproductive toxicity are also presented. Nerve agents show few or delayed effects. At supralethal doses, GB can cause delayed neuropathy in antidote-protected chickens, but there is no evidence that it causes this syndrome in humans at any dose. Agent VX shows no potential for inducing delayed neuropathy in any species. In view of their lack of genotoxcity, the nerve agents are not likely to be carcinogens. The overreaching concern with regard to nerve agent exposure is the extraordinarily high acute toxicity of these substances. Furthermore, acute effects of moderate exposure such as nausea, diarrhea, inability to perform simple mental tasks, and respiratory effects may render the public unable to respond adequately to emergency instructions in the unlikely event of agent releaase, making early warning and exposure avoidance important. Likewise, exposure or self-contamination of first responders and medical personnel must be avoided. Control limits for exposure via surface contact of drinking water are needed, as are detection methods for low levels in water or foodstuffs

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