2 American's_wearing_gas_masks_during_World_War_I (2)In the First World War poisonous gas was used frequently in an attempt to destroy the enemy. The gas used ranged from the barely noticeable to the extremely toxic; the latter used more towards the end of the War to defeat stalemate which had been difficult to overcome. It was used by both sides, both whom (to start off with) were ill-prepared. World War One is infamous for its chemical warfare, but in actual fact only a small number of deaths in the war were directly caused by gas.
This is because both sides came up with solutions to prevent the gas attacks from harming their soldiers. Many Britishs oldiers urinated on hankies (or wet their hankies for a slightly more hygienic prevention) in an attempt to counteract the toxic nature of the gas, however eventually the invention of gas masks saved not only the soldiers but would prove a useful tool for the general public too. Prior to the invention of gas masks, German soldiers were given gauzes to protect themselves which was a much more efficient way of preventing the gas from having harmful effects on them. Contrary to popular belief it was actually the French that initiated the use of gas. However it soon became a popular phenomenon being used by many countries.
The use of chemical warfare did not stop with the First World War. After World War One the USA come into the spotlight for their infamous and unfair use of the weapon. The Americans used this type of warfare in the Vietnam War later in the 20th century. Chemical warfare has proved particularly damaging in the Vietnam region with lots of birth defects, deaths and cancers being linked to the so-called ‘Agent Orange’ used by the US. This clearly shows the dangers of chemical warfare and not forgetting the long-lasting effects on innocent citizens as well as brave soldiers. The use of chemical weapons initially caused a minute (but still unfortunate) number of problems having not yet been developed properly in the First World War; however the advances in science and new technologies in the mid to late 20th century meant that chemical warfare advanced too, and with that so did the seriousness of the injuries it caused.
Chemical warfare has changed from its initial beginnings of tear gas and has now expanded into many different categories of weapons. In the present day there are numerous new chemical weapons from lethal herbicides to psychological agents which can trigger mental disturbances and psychological defects; this differs from the initial use of chemical weapons which only caused physical damage. The effects of chemical warfare have become ever more dangerous and to an extent much more malicious, as with so many weapons there are of course so many different ways to harm enemies/ innocent people. However with the progression of the chemical warfare industry the need for safer and more complex gas masks increases. Many different gas masks were developed particularly during the period of the Cold War as the world prepared for various possible attacks. Although the awaited attacks were assumed to be mainly nuclear, the threat of chemical warfare did not waver. The UN reported that in the 1970s and 80s, 25 states were developing chemical weapons, exemplifying the development of the chemical warfare industry. We cannot overlook chemical warfare as it was just as much a threat in this period as the threat of nuclear attacks.
In the present day, chemical warfare is still a huge threat to the health of the masses particularly in the Middle East. Only last year it was alleged that a gas attack took place in Damascus, Syria which produced a significant amount of fatalities. It would seem for every war that has taken place in the last 100 years there has been some sort of chemical warfare involved. The effects of chemical warfare can be extremely dangerous such as blurred vision, paralysis and even respiratory failure. One idea from the First World War has managed to cause so much harm in an unjust manner. The long term effects of some of the recent instances of chemical warfare may be unknown, but for now the children in Vietnam with extreme birth defects or the soldiers with chemical burns on their bodies from mustard gas should serve as a warning. A world free from chemical warfare might be an unreachable ideal at the moment, but for now we want gas masks, please!