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Selected Chemicals

Contact the Florida Department of Health

A brief description and links to resources for selected chemicals can be found here. Information includes odor, color, uses in the home or industry, and potential for use as a chemical weapon.

  • AMMONIA
  • CHLORINE
  • CYANIDE
  • HYDROGEN CHLORID/HYDROCHLORIC ACID
  • HYDROGEN FLUORIDE/HYDROFLUORIC ACID
  • LEWISITE
  • NITROGEN MUSTARD
  • PHOSGENE
  • PHOSGENE OXIME
  • PHOSPHINE
  • RICIN
  • RIOT CONTROL AGENTS
  • SARIN
  • SOMAN
  • SULFUR MUSTARD (MUSTARD GAS)
  • TABUN
  • VX

Ammonia is a colorless gas with a very distinct odor. This odor is familiar to many people because ammonia is used in smelling salts, many household and industrial cleaners, and window-cleaning products. Ammonia gas can be dissolved in water. As one of the highest production-volume chemicals in the U.S., concentrated ammonia is used in manufacturing, refrigeration, and agriculture (as a fertilizer).

More information about ammonia can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=2

Chlorine is a chemical used in industry and found in some household products. Chlorine is sometimes in the form of a poisonous gas. Chlorine gas can be pressurized and cooled to change it into a liquid so that it can be shipped and stored. When liquid chlorine is released, it quickly turns into a gas that stays close to the ground and spreads rapidly. Chlorine gas can be recognized by its pungent, irritating odor, similar to that of bleach. The strong smell may provide adequate warning to people exposed. Chlorine gas is yellow-green in color. Chlorine itself is not flammable, but it can react explosively or form explosive compounds with other chemicals such as turpentine and ammonia.

More information about chlorine can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=200&tid=36
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mmg/mmg.asp?id=198&tid=36
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/chlorine/basics/facts.asp

 Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

Cyanide is a rapidly acting, potentially deadly chemical that can exist in various forms. Cyanide can be a colorless gas, such as hydrogen cyanide (HCN) or cyanogen chloride (CNCl), or in a crystal form such as sodium cyanide (NaCN) or potassium cyanide (KCN). Cyanide sometimes is described as having a “bitter almond” smell, but it does not always give off an odor, and not everyone can detect this odor. Cyanide is also known by the military designations AC (for hydrogen cyanide) and CK (for cyanogen chloride).

Cyanogen chloride is a colorless liquid below 55 °F

(12.8 °C) or gas above 55 °F (12.8 °C). Cyanogen chloride is a highly volatile and toxic chemical asphyxiant that interferes with the body's ability to use oxygen. Exposure to cyanogen chloride can be rapidly fatal. It has whole-body (systemic) effects, particularly affecting those organ systems most sensitive to low oxygen levels: the central nervous system (brain), the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels), and the pulmonary system (lungs). Cyanogen chloride has strong irritant and choking effects. Its vapors are extremely irritating and corrosive. Cyanogen chloride is a chemical warfare agent (military designation CK). It is used commercially in chemical synthesis and fumigation.

More information about cyanide can be found at
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/cyanide/basics/facts.asp
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=71&tid=19

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

At room temperature, hydrogen chloride is a colorless to slightly yellow, corrosive, nonflammable gas that is heavier than air and has a strong irritating odor. When exposed to air, hydrogen chloride forms dense white corrosive vapors. Hydrogen chloride can be released from volcanoes. Hydrogen chloride has many uses, including cleaning, pickling, electroplating metals, tanning leather, and refining and producing a wide variety of products. Hydrogen chloride can be formed during the burning of many plastics. Upon contact with water, it forms hydrochloric acid. Both hydrogen chloride and hydrochloric acid are corrosive.

More information about hydrogen chloride can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=147

Hydrogen fluoride is a chemical compound that contains fluorine. It can exist as a colorless gas or as a fuming liquid, or it can be dissolved in water. When hydrogen fluoride is dissolved in water, it forms hydrofluoric acid. Hydrogen fluoride can be released when other fluoride-containing compounds such as ammonium fluoride are combined with water.

More information about hydrogen fluoride can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=211&tid=38
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/hydrofluoricacid/basics/facts.asp

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

Lewisite is a type of chemical warfare agent. This kind of agent is called a vesicant or blistering agent because it causes blistering of the skin and mucous membranes on contact. Lewisite is an oily, colorless liquid in its pure form and can appear amber to black in its impure form.

Lewisite has an odor like geraniums. Lewisite contains arsenic, a poisonous element.

More information about lewisite can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=923&tid=190
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/lewisite/basics/facts.asp

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

Nitrogen mustards were produced in the 1920s and 1930s as potential chemical warfare agents. They are vesicants (or blister agents) similar to the sulfur mustards. Nitrogen mustards come in different forms that can smell fishy, musty, soapy, or fruity. They can be in the form of an oily textured liquid, a vapor, or a solid. Nitrogen mustards are liquids at room temperature (70 ºF). Nitrogen mustards can be clear, pale amber, or yellow-colored when in liquid or solid form. The nitrogen mustards are also known by their military designations of HN-1, HN-2, and HN-3. Nitrogen mustards were never used in warfare and are not found naturally in the environment.

More information about nitrogen mustards can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=921&tid=189
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mmg/mmg.asp?id=920&tid=189
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/nitrogenmustard/basics/facts.asp

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage:
HN-1
HN-2
HN-3

Phosgene is a major industrial chemical used to make plastics and pesticides. At room temperature (70 °F), phosgene is a poisonous gas. With cooling and pressure, phosgene gas can be converted into a liquid so that it can be shipped and stored. When liquid phosgene is released, it quickly turns into a gas that stays close to the ground and spreads rapidly. Phosgene gas may appear colorless or as a white to pale yellow cloud. At low concentrations, it has a pleasant odor of newly mown hay or green corn, but its odor may not be noticed by all people exposed. At high concentrations, the odor may be strong and unpleasant. Phosgene itself is nonflammable (not easily ignited and burned). Phosgene is also known by its military designation CG.

More information about phosgene can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=1011&tid=213
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/MMG/MMG.asp?id=1201&tid=182
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/phosgene/basics/facts.asp

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

Phosgene oxime is a manufactured chemical warfare agent.  Phosgene oxime is a type of agent called an urticant or nettle agent. This is because on contact with the skin, it produces intense itching and a rash similar to hives.  Phosgene oxime is also referred to as a corrosive agent because of the type of skin and tissue damage it causes. Phosgene oxime was first produced in 1929, but it has never been used in warfare. Specific information on this chemical is very limited. Phosgene oxime is colorless in its solid form and yellowish-brown when it is a liquid. Phosgene oxime has a disagreeable, irritating odor. Phosgene oxime is also known by its military designation, CX.

More information about phosgene oxime can be found at
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/phosgene-oxime/basics/facts.asp

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

Phosphine is a colorless, flammable, explosive gas at ambient temperature that has the odor of garlic or decaying fish. Small amounts occur naturally from the breakdown of organic matter. It is slightly soluble in water. Phosphine is used in semiconductor and plastics industries, in the production of a flame retardant, and as a pesticide in stored grain.

More information about phosphine can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=214

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans. If castor beans are chewed and swallowed, the released ricin can cause injury.  Ricin can be made from the waste material left over from processing castor beans. It can be in the form of a powder, a mist, a pellet, or it can be dissolved in water or weak acid. It is a stable substance under normal conditions, but can be inactivated by heat above 176 °F.

More information about ricin can be found at
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/ricin/facts.asp
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/ricin/qa.asp

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

Riot control agents (sometimes referred to as “tear gas”) are chemical compounds that temporarily make people unable to function by causing irritation to the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and skin. Several different compounds are considered to be riot control agents. The most common compounds are known as chloroacetophenone (CN) and chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS). Other examples include chloropicrin (PS), which is also used as a fumigant (a substance that uses fumes to disinfect an area); bromobenzylcyanide (CA); dibenzoxazepine (CR); and combinations of various agents./p>

More information about riot control agents can be found at
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/riotcontrol/factsheet.asp

Sarin is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar to certain kinds of insecticides (insect killers) called organophosphates in terms of how they work and what kind of harmful effects they cause. However, nerve agents are much more potent than organophosphate pesticides. Sarin was originally developed in 1938 in Germany as a pesticide. Sarin is a clear, colorless, and tasteless liquid that has no odor in its pure form. However, sarin can evaporate into a vapor (gas) and spread into the environment. Sarin is also known by its military designation, GB.  Sarin is not found naturally in the environment and is a human-made toxin. Sarin was used in two terrorist attacks in Japan in 1994 and 1995.

More information about sarin can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=524&tid=93
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mmg/mmg.asp?id=523&tid=93
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/sarin/basics/facts.asp

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

Soman

Soman is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar to pesticides (insect-killing chemicals) called organophosphates in terms of how they work and the kinds of harmful effects they cause. However, nerve agents are much more potent than organophosphate pesticides. Soman was originally developed as an insecticide in Germany in 1944. Soman is a clear, colorless, tasteless liquid with a slight odor similar to camphor-containing mothballs or rotten fruit. It can become a vapor if heated. Soman is also known by its military designation, GD.  Soman is not found naturally in the environment and was possibly used in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980’s.

More information about soman can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=524&tid=93
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mmg/mmg.asp?id=523&tid=93
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/soman/basics/facts.asp

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

Sulfur mustard is a type of chemical warfare agent called a vesicant or blistering agent. These kinds of agents cause blistering of the skin and mucous membranes on contact. Sulfur mustard is also known as “mustard gas” or “mustard agent,” or by the military designations H, HD, and HT. Sulfur mustard can smell like garlic, onion, mustard, or may not have an odor at all. It can be a vapor, an oily-textured liquid, or a solid. Sulfur mustard can be clear to yellow or brown when it is in liquid or solid form. It is not found naturally in the environment and was introduced in World War I as a chemical warfare agent.

More information about sulfur mustard can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=904&tid=184
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mmg/mmg.asp?id=924&tid=191
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/sulfurmustard/basics/facts.asp

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

Tabun is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar to insecticides (insect-killing chemicals) called organophosphates in the way they work and the harmful effects they cause. However, nerve agents are much more potent than organophosphate insecticides. Tabun was developed as a pesticide in Germany in 1936.  Tabun is a clear or colorless-to-brown liquid (depending on purity). It is tasteless and has a faint fruity odor. Tabun can become a vapor if heated. Tabun is also known by its military designation, GA.  Tabun is not found naturally in the environment and was possibly used during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

More information about tabun can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=524&tid=93
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mmg/mmg.asp?id=523&tid=93
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/tabun/basics/facts.asp

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.

VX is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar to pesticides (insect-killing chemicals) called organophosphates in terms of how they work and what kinds of harmful effects they cause. However, nerve agents are much more potent than organophosphate pesticides.  VX was developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s. VX is odorless and tasteless. VX is an oily liquid that is amber in color and is very slow to evaporate. It evaporates about as slowly as motor oil and the only known use is as a chemical warfare agent. VX is not found naturally in the environment.

More information about VX can be found at
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=524&tid=93
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mmg/mmg.asp?id=523&tid=93
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/vx/basics/facts.asp

Information for first responders can be found on the NIOSH webpage.