Chemical Emergencies



Information by Topic Area

The searches below find resources from two National Library of Medicine databases:

  • Disaster Lit®: links to disaster medicine and public health documents for a professional audience, available on the internet at no cost. Includes expert guidelines, research reports, conference proceedings, training classes, fact sheets, websites, databases, and more.
  • PubMed: more than 28 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. May include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.

Click on the searches below, or go directly to the databases and develop your own searches.

General Information

Preparedness and Counterterrorism

Countermeasures and Treatment

Hydrogen Cyanide


Mustard Agents






Responder Safety



PubChem - Open chemistry database from NIH


ChemIDplus - Chemical identification and structure database


Classes of Chemical Agents

Nerve Agents

  • Health Effects
    • Physostigmine cholinesterase inhibitors (reversible)
    • Organophosphorus cholinesterase inhibitors (irreversible)
    • Disable enzymes responsible for transmitting nerve impulses.
    • Initial effects of organophosphorus agents occur within 1-10 minutes of exposure
    • Death
      • Within 15 minutes for Tabun, Sarin, and Soman
      • From 4-42 hours for VX.
  • Agents Include
    • Tabun (NATO military designation, GA)
    • Sarin (NATO military designation, GB)
    • Soman (NATO military designation, GD)
    • GF (Cyclohexyl methylphosphonofluoridate)
    • VX (Methylphosphonothioic acid S-(2-(bis(1-methylethyl)amino)ethyl) O-ethyl ester)
    • GE (Phosphonofluoridic acid, ethyl-, isopropyl ester)
    • VE (Phosphonothioic acid, ethyl-, S-(2-(diethylamino)ethyl) O-ethyl ester)
    • VG (Amiton)
    • VM (Phosphonothioic acid, methyl-, S-(2-(diethylamino)ethyl) O-ethyl ester)

Blister/Vesicant Agents

  • Health Effects
    • Vesicants
      • Skin blisters
      • Damage eyes, mucous membranes, respiratory tract, and internal organs
      • Initial effects rapid
    • Mustard agents
      • Destroy different substances within cells of living tissue
      • Initial effects occur 12 to 24 hours after exposure.
    • Symptoms variable
    • Acute mortality low
    • Death can occur from complications after lung injury.
  • Agents Include

Blood Agents

Pulmonary Agents

  • Health Effects
    • Liquids dispersed in gas form
    • Damage the respiratory tract and cause severe pulmonary edema in about four hours, leading to eventual death. Effects are variable
    • Rapid or delayed depending on the specific agent.
  • Agents Include

Multilingual Resources

Resources in Spanish from MedlinePlus (en español)