Proceedings Of The Marine

SPR 2015

Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.

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91 Spring 2015 Proceedings www.uscg.mil/proceedings Chemical of the Quarter Mustard Gas The lingering threat by JoSHuA P. grAy, PH.d. Associate Professor of Chemistry Director, Center for Advanced Studies U.S. Coast Guard Academy lcdr gregory crettol Assistant Professor of Chemistry U.S. Coast Guard Academy MSt2 tHoMAS WitHerS Petty Off cer, Information Branch International Ice Patrol 1/c SAMAntHA cArdozA Marine Environmental Sciences Major U.S. Coast Guard Academy 1/c JoSHuA MoAn Marine Environmental Sciences Major U.S. Coast Guard Academy On July 19, 2004, bomb disposal technicians from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, were hospitalized for several days, after being exposed to mustard gas. One of the technicians received severe burns. The technicians had been called to disarm a 75-mm artil- lery shell, found among sea shells dredged of the coast of New Jersey. On June 6, 2010, while dredging clams south of Fire Island, New York, a f shing vessel crew picked up two artillery shells. A f sher- man who handled the shells spilled a black liquid from the shell onto his arm and knee. He initially felt minor heat on his knee and forearm, but did not take any action to clean it of . After a few hours, the exposed areas became painful and developed blisters. On September 28, 2012, researchers at Texas A&M University located 55-gallon drums at a known chemical weapons dump- site near the Mississippi River. They suspected the drums were leaking mustard gas. Health Concerns Although its name implies it is a gas, mustard gas is actually a liquid at room temperature. It is highly lipophilic, mean- ing it can combine with or dissolve in lipids or fats, allowing it to penetrate the skin, eyes, and lungs of those exposed. Furthermore, exposure to mustard gas vapors can also cause damage, even if the individual is not directly exposed to the liquid chemical. History of Chemical Weapon Dumping The military dumped large quantities of chemical weapons in the oceans from the 1940s to 1970s. The belief was that ocean dumping was a safe means of disposal; however, f sh- ing vessel operations occasionally dredge or recover some of these chemical munitions. Because mustard gas, in particular, is stable at cool tempera- tures in sealed containers, it remains a threat, despite its age. Declassif ed Army documents revealed large-scale ocean dumping for chemical and conventional weapons from the World Wars. Weapons included surplus and discontinued U.S. munitions and weapons taken from Germany after World War II. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

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