Occupational and Environmental Mustard Exposure, Prevention and Chemical Weapons Convention

  • Slavica VucinicEmail author
  • Branka Djurovic
  • Biljana Antonijevic


Literature on occupational sulfur mustard (SM) exposure is limited, contrary to extensive data on acute effects of this vesicant as a chemical weapon. Workers can be occupationally exposed accidentally and/or chronically. Accidental occupational SM exposure is always short-term exposure to higher concentrations, depending also on the duration of exposure. Chronic occupational exposure is usually related to low-level concentration exposure due to leakage or protocol breakage. It develops as intoxication with mild symptoms that may not manifest immediately, and also can produce potential health consequences that become evident months or years after the exposure, as late or delayed effects or just a reduction in working ability. Environmental releases might occur near the places where SM is produced and stored, but also due to the disposal of this chemical weapon, by dumping them into the sea. Fate and behavior of this blistering agent in the environment is strongly related to its concentration. SM is lipophilic, negligible soluble in water and relatively stable in the environment. After years of efforts and peace negotiations, on April 20, 1997, Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force, and the OPCW began its work providing its implementation, and conditions for a world safe from chemical weapons.


Vesicants Sulfur mustard Occupational exposure Environmental exposure Chemical weapons convention 



Acute toxicity

Describes the adverse effects of a substance that result either from a single exposure or from multiple exposures in a short space of time (usually less than 24 h). Adverse ecological effects Refers to any harmful effects on the environment


The inability to produce voice. It is more severe than dysphonia


Sudden constriction of the muscles in the walls of the bronchi


The ability to produces cancer

Chronic bronchitis

A chronic inflammatory condition in the lungs that causes the respiratory passages to be swollen and irritated

CWA:chemical warfare agents

A chemical substance whose toxic properties are used to kill, injure or incapacitate human beings

CWC: Chemical Weapons Convention

An international treaty which prohibits the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical weapons and imposes their destruction

CX:Phosgene oxime

A manufactured chemical warfare agent, also called urticant or nettle agent


Shortness of breath or breathlessness is the feeling or feelings associated with impaired breathing

Ecological risk assessment

The process that evaluates the nature and likelihood


Study of the effects of toxic chemicals on biological organisms, especially at the population, community, ecosystem level.

Exposure assessment

The determination of the extent of human exposure.


The condition of being subjected to something, as to infectious agents, extremes of weather, radiation, or chemical agent which may have a harmful effect.

First Responder

Personnel who have responsibility to initially respond to emergencies (firefighters, HAZMAT team members, ambulance attendants)

HN-1, HN-2, HN-3: Nitrogen mustard

A class of organic compounds similar to mustard gas in their molecular structure, important for the treatment of cancer


International Agency for Research on Cancer


The flow of air into an organism. In humans, it is the movement of air from the external environment, through the airways, and into the alveoli.


Relating to the act of breathing in

L: Lewisite

A blister agent


The ability of a chemical compound to dissolve in fats, oils, lipids, and non-polar solvents

Median effective concentration (EC50)

A concentration that is statistically estimated to cause a specified effect in 50 % of a group of test organisms under specified experimental conditions.

Median lethal concentration (LC50)

A concentration that is statistically estimated to be lethal to 50 % of a group of test organisms under specified experimental conditions.

Median lethal dose (LD50)\

A dose that is statistically estimated to be lethal to 50 % of a group of test organisms under specified experimental conditions.

Monitoring of environmental conditions

Systematic, complete control and measurements of risk factors in the environment


Capable of inducing mutation or increasing its rate

No Observed Effect Concentration (NOEC)

The concentration of chemical at which there were no statistically or biologically significant increases in frequency or severity of adverse effects seen between the exposed population and its appropriate control. Effects may be produced at this dose, but they are not considered to be adverse.

Occupational exposure

Exposure to harmful agent in a workplace.

Octanol-Water Partition Coefficient (Kow)

The equilibrium ratio of the concentrations of a chemical in n-octanol and water, in dilute solution.

Adverse ecological effects: any adverse effect to the environment

Of adverse ecological effects from exposure to one or more stressors.

Periodic examination

Is annual examination of worker exposed to some harmful agent in a workplace.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Protective suits, gloves, foot covering, respiratory protection, hoods, safety glasses, goggles, and face shields.

Preplacement examination

Is an examination before entrance in the working environment with potential health risk.

Prolonged toxicity

Describes the adverse effects of a substance that result either from continuous or repeated exposure.


The probability that an adverse effect will occur under a particular condition of exposure.

Risk assessment

A scientifically based process of evaluating the toxic properties of a chemical and conditions of human exposure to it in order to ascertain the likelihood that exposed people will be adversely affected and to characterize the nature of these effects.

Self-contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

A respirator that provides fresh air to the facepiece from a compressed air tank (usually worn on the worker’s back).

SM:Sulfur mustard

A class of related cytotoxic and vesicant chemical warfare agents with the ability to form large blisters on the exposed skin and in the lungs


A drug or other substance capable of interfering with the development of a fetus, causing birth defects


Dose or exposure concentration of an agent below that a stated effect is not observed or expected to occur.

Toxic unit (TU)

It represents the ratio between the exposure concentration and fish no observed effect concentration (NOEC).


Inherent property of an agent to cause an adverse biological effect.

Toxicological end point

Effect observed in a toxicity study.


A condition involving inflammation of the windpipe orbronchi


The process of screening and classifying sick, wounded, or injured persons to determine priority needs in order to ensure the efficient use of medical personnel, equipment, and hospitals.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Slavica Vucinic
    • 1
    Email author
  • Branka Djurovic
    • 2
  • Biljana Antonijevic
    • 3
  1. 1.National Poison Control CentreMilitary Medical Academy/Medical Faculty, University of DefenseBelgradeSerbia
  2. 2.Institute of Occupational MedicineMilitary Medical Academy, Medical Faculty/University of DefenseBelgradeSerbia
  3. 3.Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia

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