It took 20 years, but in April a treaty finally went into effect banning chemical weapons. While the Chemical Weapons Convention is an important step toward a safer world, it may have the undesired effect of encouraging some countries to redouble their efforts to acquire biological weapons-disease-causing microbes and natural poisons such as anthrax, pneumonic plague, and botulinum toxin. Biological weapons are not only more potent than chemical weapons but they are easier to produce in small, clandestine facilities. A biological attack could create an almost unimaginable catastrophe. According to an estimate by the U.S. Congress’s former Office of Technology Assessment, 100 kilograms of anthrax, released from a low-flying aircraft over a large city on a clear, calm night, could kill 1-3 million people. This figure is comparable to the casualties from a one-megaton hydrogen bomb. When disseminated as an aerosol, anthrax spores (analogous to microscopic seeds) are inhaled deep into the victim’s lungs and travel to the lymph nodes, where they germinate and multiply. The bacteria then secrete potent toxins, giving rise in about three days to a devastating illness. For the victims to have any chance at all of surviving, antibiotics must be administered intravenously before the onset… Read full this story
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