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Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Agents and Incidents - Research Paper Example

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An example of this are all the chemicals we have been using for the home (soaps, shampoos, cleaning agents, all kinds of washing liquids, etc.),…
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Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Agents and Incidents
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CHEMICAL, BIOLOGICAL AND NUCLEAR AGENTS AND INCIDENTS (Research Paper) ID Number: Hazardous Materials Management 2 Professor’s Name:
Name of School (University)
Estimated Word Count: 914
Date of Submission: June 28, 2012
Modern society is exposed to various dangers because of all the materials that it had invented and been using for a variety of uses. An example of this are all the chemicals we have been using for the home (soaps, shampoos, cleaning agents, all kinds of washing liquids, etc.), for agriculture (fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) and for industrial production such that incidence rates for all types of cancer have gone up because of all the carcinogens. The dangers are further amplified if there is terrorism involved, as some hazardous materials can fall into the wrong hands and used for evil purposes to inflict massive civilian casualties. There are four types of classifying various hazards using a color-coding system, which are the following: Blue (for threats to health or physical injuries), Red (flammability), Yellow (reactivity) and last, White (water reactivity). A new classification which uses the symbol of a radioactive propeller has been added to indicate a material is radioactive. This paper tackles the common chemical, biological and nuclear agents deemed to be dangerous and common incidents involving them.
Most of the hazardous materials (hazmat, for short) are essentially man-made although a few of these are naturally-occurring, such as certain types of anthrax and radioactive elements. The three major categories of hazmat agents are discussed individually, and incidents involving the same materials, such as accidents during transport and spills or leaks during production. Only some 39 elements as found in the Periodic Table of Elements are actually hazardous, the rest of the materials are the results of combining these elements into various mixtures and compounds which made them hazardous if these are not handled properly (Burke, 2003, p. 43).
Chemicals – it is the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that came up with the nine major classifications for hazardous chemicals that are now widely used. These classes are mostly explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids, flammable solids, oxidizers, poisons, radioactive materials, corrosives and last, miscellaneous hazardous materials (OSU, 1997, p. 1). Industrial chemical compounds are often long-lasting (they take years and decades to degrade to be harmless) and find their way into water supplies, lakes, rivers and oceans and along the food chain. Research conducted eliminated smoking, drinking, lifestyle and diets as probable factors and the polluted environment is the most likely cause of many cancers (Steingraber, 1999, p. 2). The DOT came up with the classifications because hazmat needs to be transported, either by air, sea or land (railroad, on public roads or using private vehicles) and it uses a placard system that clearly labels the transported materials as hazardous, based on the most severe hazard. Accidents during transport cause hazmat incidents that spills or releases these chemicals to the environment such as a train derailment, plane crash, vehicle collision or boat sinking.
Biological Agents – the common agents are anthrax, smallpox, plague and turalemia (a kind of infectious disease) using viruses, germs, bacteria, fungi and toxins. These act on a person in various ways, such as through inhalation, via the skin or by ingestion (contaminated food). An example of a biological agent incident was the anthrax scare when white powder was mailed to offices from Trenton, New Jersey in 2001 by a disgruntled scientist using laboratory methods to concentrate anthrax spores that created widespread panic. It was a limited attack involving only a single person and did not use multiple agents or modes of transmission (Hughes and Gerberding, 2002, p. 1); it was easily detected, traced and neutralized using simple chemical cleaning agents such as chloride solutions. The infected persons were treated using penicillin and other readily-available antibiotics such as doxycycline (DoD, 2003, p. 1); prophylactics were used for cleanup.
Nuclear Materials – incidents involving nuclear materials are usually the result of the malfunction of certain safety systems, such as the cooling pipes of a nuclear plant reactor. This was the case of the Chernobyl disaster when its cooling system failed and the reactor overheated resulting in a meltdown. Another more recent case was the nuclear incident that happened in the country of Japan during the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, which caused the failure of safety systems in its nuclear reactors but the more proximate cause was due to inadequate types of maintenance work on its aging, old plants. Government regulators agreed to extend the plant at Fukushima for another ten years a month before the earthquake struck (Tabuchi, Onishi and Belson, 2011, p. 1) despite several warnings and contrary to its own regulations.
Knowledge of hazardous materials can potentially save lives and prevent injuries to a lot of people. First responders and emergency personnel (medical, police and fire workers) need to know even the basics of hazmat handling and proper response to minimize casualties among a civilian population. An incident command system (ICS) must be in place in every locality so that disaster planning and risk mitigation can be done before a catastrophe strikes (whether due to the carelessness of some people or due to a natural calamity such as an earthquake or typhoon). The people who will survive are those who were knowledgeable about these potential incidents, those who are well-equipped in terms of materials and resources and finally, do not panic. An incident commander should likewise be designated in advance to direct all emergency relief operations or to train enough personnel before any disaster, maintain adequate communications and coordinate community efforts to mitigate or minimize the effects and make recovery faster and easier.
Reference List
Burke, R. (2003). Hazardous materials chemistry for emergency responders. Boca Raton, FL, USA: CRC Press.
Department of Defense. (2003). Anthrax: biological warfare. Department of Defense of the United States of America. Retrieved June 26, 2012 from
Hughes, J. M. and Gerberding, J. L. (2002, October). Anthrax bioterrorism: lessons learned and future directions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved June 26, 2012 from
Oklahoma State University – OSU. (1997, January). Hazmat transportation: Department of Transporation (DOT) dangerous goods classifications. Environmental Health and Safety Department. Retrieved June 26, 2012 from
Steingraber, S. (1999, March 26). Everyday carcinogens: action for prevention in the face of scientific uncertainty [video]. Available from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Transcript. Retrieved June 26, 2012 from
Tabuchi, H., Onishi, N. and Belson, K. (2011, March 21). Japan Extended Reactor’s Life, Despite Warning. The New York Times. Retrieved June 26, 2012 from Read More
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