Environmental Medicine
Chemical Warfare Agents 
Chemical weapons symbol and chemical structure


General Information
  • During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, Service members who demolished or handled older explosive ordnance may have been exposed to chemical warfare agents.

  • The Department of Defense (DoD) wants to:
    • Identify those individuals who had symptoms after exposure to chemical warfare agents in Iraq after 2003.
    • Evaluate your symptoms and know your current status.
    • Make sure that your medical records are documented, that the Veteran’s Administration is informed, and that you understand your future health risks.
    • Provide you with information regarding your exposure that you can share with your current health care provider, and recommend follow-up if it is appropriate.

  • DoD has identified some individuals and they are also screening unit medical records and reviewing Post Deployment Health Assessment and Reassessment forms to identify other exposed individuals. Because these methods have limitations, you can use the DoD Hotline to notify them of your exposure.

  • The chemical warfare agents in the ordnance identified so far were blister agents (mustard agent) or nerve agents (sarin).

  • Exposure to either agent was uncommon, but exposure to sarin was even less common than exposure to mustard.

  • The likelihood of long-term effects from a single exposure is related to the severity of the exposure. The severity of exposure is estimated from the signs and symptoms at the time of exposure and how long it took for them to develop.

FOR SERVICE MEMBERS and VETERANS

Department of Defense Hotline:
800-497-6261
If you think you were exposed to chemical warfare agents during your deployment
in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation New Dawn (2003-2011), call the hotline.

VA Airborne Hazards and
Burn Pit Registry
 External Link

If you are also concerned about exposure to burn pits or other airborne hazards during your deployment, see if you're eligible to be included in the registry.

Gulf War Registry Health Exam for Veterans External Link
The VA Gulf War Registry Health Exam alerts Veterans to long-term health problems that may be related to environmental exposures during their military service. You can register for this health exam and with the VA Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry as well.
Call the VA at 877-222-8387.

VA War-Related Illness and Injury Study Center  External Link
Veterans with complex deployment-related exposures may be referred to this research and health care center. The Center provides expertise to both Veterans and their health care providers.

VA Environmental Exposures Programs and Services Environmental Exposures Programs and Services Brochure 
The VA Environmental Exposures Programs
and Services
brochure has information on resources for Service members with deployment exposures.

Health Effects

Immediate symptoms and potential long-term health effects depend on the type of agent and the severity of exposure.
 

  • Blister agents

    • Eyes, skin and the respiratory system may be affected. Mild effects include tearing, gritty or burning sensation in the eyes, cough, runny nose, hoarseness, bloody nose, and redness of the skin. For these, there are no long-term health effects expected.
    • More severe exposures may result in swelling of the eyelids, and eye pain, shortness of breath, productive cough and blistering of the skin. The long-term impacts to the eyes and lungs and skin are evaluated based on the severity of these effects at the time of exposure.

Explosive ordnance handling
  U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gary Silverman/Released

  • Nerve agents: Mild or minimal exposures are those that caused constriction of the pupils (miosis), mild shortness of breath and nausea and vomiting.  As the magnitude of exposure increases, more symptoms develop which include loss of consciousness and seizures. Long-term health effects associated with single exposures are not common.

Reporting

The Department of Defense (DoD) is contacting Service members and Veterans who may have been exposed to chemical warfare agents in Iraq after March 17, 2003. If you were exposed and have not been contacted, please call their hotline: 1-800-497-6261.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DoD want to ensure that affected individuals have an opportunity to receive  health education, record documentation, treatment and follow-up as appropriate.

Chemical Warfare Agent Medical Identification, Assessment, and Disposition Process/Procedures External Link, Revised 24 March 2015 (milBook - restricted access) Download from milBook to enable the links.

More information

General

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Public Health:
Warfare Agents External Link

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Public Health: Chemical Warfare Agents in Operation Iraqi Freedom External Link

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Public Health: Iraq War Exposures External Link

APHC: TG 365 - Chemical Warfare Agents: Review of Drinking Water Standards and Surveillance Methods External Link (AKO - restricted access)

 Explosive ordnance detonation

 

 

 

 

  
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brandon Owen

Nerve Agents and Sarin

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Emergency Preparedness and Response: Facts About Sarin  External Link

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Toxic Substances Portal – Nerve Agents (GA, GB, GD, VX) External Link

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Medical Management Guidelines for Nerve Agents: Tabun (GA); Sarin (GB); Soman (GD); and VX External Link

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Public Health: Nerve Agents External Link

Institute of Medicine: Gulf War and Health: Updated Literature Review of Sarin External Link

 Sarin Brochure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brochure: Long-term Effects of
Exposure to Sarin

 

Blister Agents and Mustard

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Emergency Preparedness and Response: Facts About Sulfur Mustard External Link

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Toxic Substances Portal – Sulfur Mustard External Link

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Medical Management Guidelines for Blister Agents -
Sulfur Mustard Agent H or HD (C4H8Cl2S), Sulfur Mustard Agent HT
 External Link

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Public Health: Mustard Gas External Link

Institute of Medicine: Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite External Link

Mustard Brochure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brochure: Long-term Effects of
Exposure to Sulfur Mustard