The Origins and Development of Mustard Gas as a Weapon in World War I

Category: Chemistry
Last Updated: 31 Mar 2023
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Mustard Gas During World War I LOST was the original name for mustard gas, it was named after Lommel and Steinkopf. They were the first people who proposed this gas to the military to use as a weapon in 1916. Although mustard gas could possibly been developed as early as 1822 by a French chemist, Cesar-Mansuete Desperetez. Thirty-two years later Alfred Riche repeated this reaction of the sulfur dichloride and ethylene, but both Riche and Desperetez did not note any harsh properties. In 1860, Frederick Gutherie synthesized and described the characteristics of the compound and it’s irritating properties.

Another chemist known as a pioneer in cocaine chemistry, Albert Nieman repeated the reaction, and recorded blistering formations. Meanwhile, a published paper written by Victor Meyer in 1866, explained the reaction of 2-chloroethanol and an aqueous potassium sulfide that formed phosphorous trichloride. The purity of this compound was higher and there was much more severe health effects. He also tested this compound on rabbits and noted that they died. An English chemist Hans Thacher Clarke did this reaction in 1913. When performing the experiment the flask broke, and Clarke was in the hospital for two months for burns.

Clarkes partner Emil Fischer reported the accident to the German Society, which put Germany on the chemical weapons track. Sulfur mustard is an organic compound with the molecular formula of C4H8Cl2S. Mustard gas can be reacted with different compounds, but still have the same major organic product. These are the different reactions to make sulfur gas: Deperetez: SCl2 + 2 C2H4 > (Cl-CH2CH2)2S Meyer: 3(HO-CH2CH2)2S + 2PCl3 > 3(Cl-CH2CH2)2S + 2P(OH)3 Meyer-Clarke: (HO-CH2CH2)2S + 2HCl > (Cl-CH2CH2)2S + 2H2O Other chlorinating agents that have been used are trionyl and phosgene.

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Chemists know mustard gas by bis(chloroethyl) sulfide or dichlorethylsulphide, but it has been called senfgas, yellow cross liquid, yperite, distilled mustard and mustard T-mixture. The name Yperite originates by the Germany army, when used near the city o Ypres. Mustard gas appears colorless if pure, but when impurities are present the color ranges from pale yellow to dark brown. There is a small odor garlic or horseradish. Mustards gas is actually not a gas; it is a volatile, very thick liquid. Mustard gas has a molecular weight of 159. 08 grams/mole, a density of 1. 7 grams/mL; melts at 144? C, and boils at 217? C. Mustard agents are regulated under the 1933 Chemical Weapons Convention. Mustard gas was formed in large amounts during World War I and II. Mustard gas was first used in World War I, but was used in the war Iran-Iraq war in 1884-1988. By 1977, the United States Secretary of Defense was told to dispose of all the fatal chemical agents, like mustard gas. When mustard gas comes into contact to skin, blistering and burns occur. These agents may cause brutal damage to the eyes, the respiratory system, and internal organs.

The symptoms don’t occur immediately, they usually appear from two hours to twenty-four hours after contact. By the time the symptoms become apparent, severe cell damage has already occurred. Mustard gas is strongly carcinogenic and mutagenic. Mustard agents are lipophilic, meaning it can dissolve in fats, oils, and non-polar solvents. Therefore people can unknowingly be exposed to mustard gas. Mustard gas is classified as a vesicant, which means it leaves lesions and burns on the skin and respiratory tract. Mustard gas can damage deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

The compound eliminates a chloride ion by intramolecular nucleophilic substitution, which forms a cyclic sulfonium ion. This reactive intermediate tends to permanently alkylate the nucleotide in DNA strands. Cellular death and cancer can occur from this alkylation. Mild toxicity has symptoms of lacrimation, eye pain, irritation of the mucus membrane, hoarseness, swelling of the skin, sneezing, and coughing. Severe toxicity’s symptoms include blindness, blistering, vomiting, nausea, and respiratory complications. Lung injury was the leading cause of death after the exposure of mustard gas. Lung injuries start with mild symptoms, and lowly increase into chemical pneumonia, and pulmonary edema. Within twenty-four hours of exposure to skin, victims are itchy and skin irritation, which lead to yellow filled blisters. Five to ten days after the exposure of large amounts of mustard gas, there is a drastic reduction in white blood cells. The decrease of white blood cells, affect the bone marrow and lymphatic tissue to look as if the person was exposed to radiation. The best treatment is decontamination. The German Army was the first to use mustard gas effectively against the British soldiers in 1917, near Ypres in World War One.

Mustard gas was dispersed as aerial bombs, mortar rounds, artillery shells, land mines, as an aerosol, and rockets. Mustard gas was only lethal in about one percent of cases. Soldiers wore gas masks, but this didn’t protect them from the gas, since the gas could be absorbed through their clothes. Mustard gas would stay the stay in the environment for days, and continue to cause sickness. Also, if a soldier were to be contaminated by the gas, other soldiers that came into contact with would become contaminated too.

The Geneva Protocol of 1925 prohibited chemical warfare, and the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 prohibited the development, production, and stockpiling of chemical weapons. The mustard gas found after World War I in Germany was dumped in the Baltic Sea. Mustard gas structure: Gas mask worn to protect from inhaling mustard gas the wounds conflicted from mustard gas http://www. firstworldwar. com/weaponry/gas. htm http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Sulfur_mustard http://www. bt. cdc. gov/agent/sulfurmustard/basics/facts. asp http://www. diggerhistory. info/pages-weapons/gas. htm

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The Origins and Development of Mustard Gas as a Weapon in World War I. (2017, Jun 11). Retrieved from

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