Biological and environmental hazards associated with exposure to chemical warfare agents: arsenicals

Arsenicals are highly reactive inorganic and organic derivatives of arsenic. These chemicals are very toxic and produce both acute and chronic tissue damage. On the basis of these observations, and considering the low cost and simple methods of their bulk syntheses, these agents were thought to be appropriate for chemical warfare. Among these, the best-known agent that was synthesised and weaponised during World War I (WWI) is Lewisite. Exposure to Lewisite causes painful inflammatory and blistering responses in the skin, lung, and eye. These chemicals also manifest systemic tissue injury following their cutaneous exposure. Although largely discontinued after WWI, stockpiles are still known to exist in the former Soviet Union, Germany, Italy, the United States, and Asia. Thus, access by terrorists or accidental exposure could be highly dangerous for humans and the environment. This review summarises studies that describe the biological, pathophysiological, toxicological, and environmental effects of exposure to arsenicals, with a major focus on cutaneous injury. Studies related to the development of novel molecular pathobiology-based antidotes against these agents are also described.

Authors: Li C, Srivastava RK, Athar M. ;Full Source: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2016 Sep 16. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13214. [Epub ahead of print] ;