The History and Science of CBRNE Agents, Part 1

Gregory Shane Hendricks, United States Air Force
Margot Hall, University of Southern Mississippi


Various unconventional forms of warfare have existed throughout history and include intentional contamination, poisoning, and delivery of a variety of weapons-virulent microorganisms, deadly toxins, and high-yield explosives, including atomic weapons, Such weapons have been studied and utilized on the battlefield, in political struggles, and interrorist activities for centuries. Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) substances assumed a new prominence in the public consciousness following recent terror attacks. These agents pose a public health risk; thus, scientific profesionals, including biochemists, should understand the history of CBRNE agents, their potential for harm, and the technologies-both common and advanced-used when handling a suspect CBRNE incident.