Common term used to describe the threats from Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear agents. Also includes Toxic Industrial Chemicals, TIC's.

Chemical Warfare Agents (CWA)

CWA's can be classified in many different ways, but these are the two most common:

  • Effect on humans: incapacitating (mustard gas) or lethal (nerve gases)
  • Physical state: high volatility (contaminates the air) or low volatility (contaminates the ground)

Note: The term Nerve gas does not always refer to a gaseous chemical but often to a liquid which is spread as an aerosol.


CWA Effect Contaminates Way into body
Mustard gas (HD) Incapacitating (skin damaging) Ground Skin contact
Lewisite (L) Incapacitating (skin damaging) Ground Skin contact
Tear gas (CN, CS) Incapacitating (eye irritating) Air Eye contact
Sarin (GA) Lethal Air Inhaling
Soman (GB) Lethal Ground and Air Skin or inhaling
Tabun (GD) Lethal Ground Skin or inhaling
VX Lethal Ground Skin or inhaling


Toxic Industrial chemicals - TIC's - are chemicals normally used within industry, but which have toxic properties and therefore may be used as warfare agents, and can be classified in the same way as the CWA's.


  • Arsine (AS)
  • Cyanogen chloride (CK)
  • Carbonyl chloride/Phosgen (CG)
  • Dimethyl sulfate (DMA)
  • Hydrogen cyanide (AC, HCN)

Biological Warfare Agents

These are natural or modified bacterias and viruses used as warfare agents.


  • Smallpox (virus)
  • Influenza (virus)
  • Anthrax (bacteria)
  • Plague (bacteria)
  • Last updated 2/20/2020
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