Potential fate of blistering chemical warfare agents in the coastal waters of Kuwait

H. Khordagui, D. Al-Ajmi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The Iran-Iraq war, followed by the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, and the use of certain blistering chemical warfare agents, in the Arabian Gulf region triggered the interest of environmental scientists on the probable fate of these chemical agents if drifting to the Arabian Gulf unique marine environment. In case of a massive release, the main potential target might be the intakes of power desalination plants located along the Kuwaiti shorelines. In the present work, information derived from the limited open literature is extrapolated to project the possible fate of mustard gas in the designated marine environment based on its peculiar characteristics. Contamination of seawater with mustard gas can be naturally alleviated by degradation mainly through hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is found to be a relatively fast pathway for mustard as compared to other processes such as biodegradation and photooxidation. In general, all the local environmental factors involved in the aquatic degradation of mustard gas in Kuwait's marine environment except for high salinity, are in favor for the fast degradation process. In case of massive releases of mustard gas near the Kuwaiti shorelines, turbulence resulting from tidal cycles will control the dissolution/hydrolysis processes and extend the toxicity of the insoluble agent. The estimated half life of mustard gas below saturation levels in Kuwait's marine environment is in the order of only few hours. Kuwait (as most of the states located along the western shores of the Arabian Gulf), is relying upon the Gulf water as its main water resource. This exclusive dependence on seawater and its quality as a prime source of potable water should never be jeopardize by pollution. The Iran-Iraq war, followed by the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, and the use of certain blistering chemical warfare agents (CWAs), particularly sulphur mustard (HD), in the Arabian Gulf region (New Scientist, 1985), triggered the interest of environmental scientists on the probable fate of these chemical agents within the unique marine environment of the Gulf. The potential threat of CWAs to the coastal waters can be materialized by one or more of the following means: 1. Accidental release of the agents or their precursors during shipping and transportation in the region. 2. Drifting and precipitation of CWA from targeted areas during military operations. 3. Deliberate disposal of CWA shipments in the Gulf to avoid detection by international mass destruction weapons non-proliferation inspectors. 4. Potential disarmament and disposal of CWA stocks by sinking in the Gulf by nations possessing these weapons in the region. 5. The intentional massive releases of CWA by enemies in case of a conflict. In case of a massive release, the main potential target might be the intakes of power desalination facilities located along the Kuwaiti shorelines. The basic objective of such an assault will be the contamination of sea water to render it toxic and deprive Kuwait from its sole drinking water resource. Other unlikely objectives of CWA assault would be the destruction of marine ecology, and/or the alteration of industrial operations located near the shorelines. Based on the given facts, it was of prime importance to conceptually study the potential fate of CWA of concern in the aquatic marine environment of Kuwait. In the present work, all seawater characteristics and other local and regional environmental conditions that are known to affect the fate and rate of degradation of these chemicals in the marine environment were considered. Sulphur mustard, was selected based on its prevalence, potency, and confirmed possession by countries in the region (Norman, 1989). Its technical name is [bis(2-chloroethyl) sulphide] and its chemical agent symbol is HD, and has the chemical structure [Cl- CH2CH2-S-CH2CH2-Cl]. According to Lindesten et al. (1975), HD remains the blistering CWA of choice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-700
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health.Part A: Environmental Science and Engineering
Volume29
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1994

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Chemical warfare
Water
Seawater
Degradation
Hydrolysis
Gases
Desalination
Water resources
Potable water
Contamination
Sulfur
Photooxidation
Military operations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution

Cite this

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title = "Potential fate of blistering chemical warfare agents in the coastal waters of Kuwait",
abstract = "The Iran-Iraq war, followed by the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, and the use of certain blistering chemical warfare agents, in the Arabian Gulf region triggered the interest of environmental scientists on the probable fate of these chemical agents if drifting to the Arabian Gulf unique marine environment. In case of a massive release, the main potential target might be the intakes of power desalination plants located along the Kuwaiti shorelines. In the present work, information derived from the limited open literature is extrapolated to project the possible fate of mustard gas in the designated marine environment based on its peculiar characteristics. Contamination of seawater with mustard gas can be naturally alleviated by degradation mainly through hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is found to be a relatively fast pathway for mustard as compared to other processes such as biodegradation and photooxidation. In general, all the local environmental factors involved in the aquatic degradation of mustard gas in Kuwait's marine environment except for high salinity, are in favor for the fast degradation process. In case of massive releases of mustard gas near the Kuwaiti shorelines, turbulence resulting from tidal cycles will control the dissolution/hydrolysis processes and extend the toxicity of the insoluble agent. The estimated half life of mustard gas below saturation levels in Kuwait's marine environment is in the order of only few hours. Kuwait (as most of the states located along the western shores of the Arabian Gulf), is relying upon the Gulf water as its main water resource. This exclusive dependence on seawater and its quality as a prime source of potable water should never be jeopardize by pollution. The Iran-Iraq war, followed by the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, and the use of certain blistering chemical warfare agents (CWAs), particularly sulphur mustard (HD), in the Arabian Gulf region (New Scientist, 1985), triggered the interest of environmental scientists on the probable fate of these chemical agents within the unique marine environment of the Gulf. The potential threat of CWAs to the coastal waters can be materialized by one or more of the following means: 1. Accidental release of the agents or their precursors during shipping and transportation in the region. 2. Drifting and precipitation of CWA from targeted areas during military operations. 3. Deliberate disposal of CWA shipments in the Gulf to avoid detection by international mass destruction weapons non-proliferation inspectors. 4. Potential disarmament and disposal of CWA stocks by sinking in the Gulf by nations possessing these weapons in the region. 5. The intentional massive releases of CWA by enemies in case of a conflict. In case of a massive release, the main potential target might be the intakes of power desalination facilities located along the Kuwaiti shorelines. The basic objective of such an assault will be the contamination of sea water to render it toxic and deprive Kuwait from its sole drinking water resource. Other unlikely objectives of CWA assault would be the destruction of marine ecology, and/or the alteration of industrial operations located near the shorelines. Based on the given facts, it was of prime importance to conceptually study the potential fate of CWA of concern in the aquatic marine environment of Kuwait. In the present work, all seawater characteristics and other local and regional environmental conditions that are known to affect the fate and rate of degradation of these chemicals in the marine environment were considered. Sulphur mustard, was selected based on its prevalence, potency, and confirmed possession by countries in the region (Norman, 1989). Its technical name is [bis(2-chloroethyl) sulphide] and its chemical agent symbol is HD, and has the chemical structure [Cl- CH2CH2-S-CH2CH2-Cl]. According to Lindesten et al. (1975), HD remains the blistering CWA of choice.",
author = "H. Khordagui and D. Al-Ajmi",
year = "1994",
language = "English",
volume = "29",
pages = "687--700",
journal = "Journal of Environmental Science and Health - Part A Environmental Science and Engineering",
issn = "0360-1226",
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TY - JOUR

T1 - Potential fate of blistering chemical warfare agents in the coastal waters of Kuwait

AU - Khordagui, H.

AU - Al-Ajmi, D.

PY - 1994

Y1 - 1994

N2 - The Iran-Iraq war, followed by the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, and the use of certain blistering chemical warfare agents, in the Arabian Gulf region triggered the interest of environmental scientists on the probable fate of these chemical agents if drifting to the Arabian Gulf unique marine environment. In case of a massive release, the main potential target might be the intakes of power desalination plants located along the Kuwaiti shorelines. In the present work, information derived from the limited open literature is extrapolated to project the possible fate of mustard gas in the designated marine environment based on its peculiar characteristics. Contamination of seawater with mustard gas can be naturally alleviated by degradation mainly through hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is found to be a relatively fast pathway for mustard as compared to other processes such as biodegradation and photooxidation. In general, all the local environmental factors involved in the aquatic degradation of mustard gas in Kuwait's marine environment except for high salinity, are in favor for the fast degradation process. In case of massive releases of mustard gas near the Kuwaiti shorelines, turbulence resulting from tidal cycles will control the dissolution/hydrolysis processes and extend the toxicity of the insoluble agent. The estimated half life of mustard gas below saturation levels in Kuwait's marine environment is in the order of only few hours. Kuwait (as most of the states located along the western shores of the Arabian Gulf), is relying upon the Gulf water as its main water resource. This exclusive dependence on seawater and its quality as a prime source of potable water should never be jeopardize by pollution. The Iran-Iraq war, followed by the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, and the use of certain blistering chemical warfare agents (CWAs), particularly sulphur mustard (HD), in the Arabian Gulf region (New Scientist, 1985), triggered the interest of environmental scientists on the probable fate of these chemical agents within the unique marine environment of the Gulf. The potential threat of CWAs to the coastal waters can be materialized by one or more of the following means: 1. Accidental release of the agents or their precursors during shipping and transportation in the region. 2. Drifting and precipitation of CWA from targeted areas during military operations. 3. Deliberate disposal of CWA shipments in the Gulf to avoid detection by international mass destruction weapons non-proliferation inspectors. 4. Potential disarmament and disposal of CWA stocks by sinking in the Gulf by nations possessing these weapons in the region. 5. The intentional massive releases of CWA by enemies in case of a conflict. In case of a massive release, the main potential target might be the intakes of power desalination facilities located along the Kuwaiti shorelines. The basic objective of such an assault will be the contamination of sea water to render it toxic and deprive Kuwait from its sole drinking water resource. Other unlikely objectives of CWA assault would be the destruction of marine ecology, and/or the alteration of industrial operations located near the shorelines. Based on the given facts, it was of prime importance to conceptually study the potential fate of CWA of concern in the aquatic marine environment of Kuwait. In the present work, all seawater characteristics and other local and regional environmental conditions that are known to affect the fate and rate of degradation of these chemicals in the marine environment were considered. Sulphur mustard, was selected based on its prevalence, potency, and confirmed possession by countries in the region (Norman, 1989). Its technical name is [bis(2-chloroethyl) sulphide] and its chemical agent symbol is HD, and has the chemical structure [Cl- CH2CH2-S-CH2CH2-Cl]. According to Lindesten et al. (1975), HD remains the blistering CWA of choice.

AB - The Iran-Iraq war, followed by the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, and the use of certain blistering chemical warfare agents, in the Arabian Gulf region triggered the interest of environmental scientists on the probable fate of these chemical agents if drifting to the Arabian Gulf unique marine environment. In case of a massive release, the main potential target might be the intakes of power desalination plants located along the Kuwaiti shorelines. In the present work, information derived from the limited open literature is extrapolated to project the possible fate of mustard gas in the designated marine environment based on its peculiar characteristics. Contamination of seawater with mustard gas can be naturally alleviated by degradation mainly through hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is found to be a relatively fast pathway for mustard as compared to other processes such as biodegradation and photooxidation. In general, all the local environmental factors involved in the aquatic degradation of mustard gas in Kuwait's marine environment except for high salinity, are in favor for the fast degradation process. In case of massive releases of mustard gas near the Kuwaiti shorelines, turbulence resulting from tidal cycles will control the dissolution/hydrolysis processes and extend the toxicity of the insoluble agent. The estimated half life of mustard gas below saturation levels in Kuwait's marine environment is in the order of only few hours. Kuwait (as most of the states located along the western shores of the Arabian Gulf), is relying upon the Gulf water as its main water resource. This exclusive dependence on seawater and its quality as a prime source of potable water should never be jeopardize by pollution. The Iran-Iraq war, followed by the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, and the use of certain blistering chemical warfare agents (CWAs), particularly sulphur mustard (HD), in the Arabian Gulf region (New Scientist, 1985), triggered the interest of environmental scientists on the probable fate of these chemical agents within the unique marine environment of the Gulf. The potential threat of CWAs to the coastal waters can be materialized by one or more of the following means: 1. Accidental release of the agents or their precursors during shipping and transportation in the region. 2. Drifting and precipitation of CWA from targeted areas during military operations. 3. Deliberate disposal of CWA shipments in the Gulf to avoid detection by international mass destruction weapons non-proliferation inspectors. 4. Potential disarmament and disposal of CWA stocks by sinking in the Gulf by nations possessing these weapons in the region. 5. The intentional massive releases of CWA by enemies in case of a conflict. In case of a massive release, the main potential target might be the intakes of power desalination facilities located along the Kuwaiti shorelines. The basic objective of such an assault will be the contamination of sea water to render it toxic and deprive Kuwait from its sole drinking water resource. Other unlikely objectives of CWA assault would be the destruction of marine ecology, and/or the alteration of industrial operations located near the shorelines. Based on the given facts, it was of prime importance to conceptually study the potential fate of CWA of concern in the aquatic marine environment of Kuwait. In the present work, all seawater characteristics and other local and regional environmental conditions that are known to affect the fate and rate of degradation of these chemicals in the marine environment were considered. Sulphur mustard, was selected based on its prevalence, potency, and confirmed possession by countries in the region (Norman, 1989). Its technical name is [bis(2-chloroethyl) sulphide] and its chemical agent symbol is HD, and has the chemical structure [Cl- CH2CH2-S-CH2CH2-Cl]. According to Lindesten et al. (1975), HD remains the blistering CWA of choice.

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