Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Poisonous Thoughts

Mustard gas. What is it really?

An article I found gave me a few answers. It's a poison that is particularly bad for the skin and the eyes, but can also affect the lungs and other organs if it is inhaled. Although it is typically not fatal, it does have severe effects. However, these effects do not occur immediately after exposure; rather, symptoms take up to six hours to develop. This can be a problem because permanent damage can occur before the victim even knows that they need medical treatment!

Mustard gas is a so-called "blister agent," meaning that it is a chemical that can damage the skin, eyes, and lungs. In comparison with "nerve agents," (chemicals that prevent the nervous system from properly functioning) it is not as likely to become fatal. However, the amount to which a victim is exposed plays a role in the long-term effects. Long-lasting complications (such as cancer) can be traced back to mustard gas.

Another article gave me some more in-depth information on the processes of mustard gas. As an alkylating agents, it binds to nucleophilic molecules (molecules that share electrons with another molecule to bind with them) such as both types of nucleic acids as well as proteins and various parts of cell membranes. Obviously, this can be bad. For example, when it bonds with DNA, it can cause the strands of DNA to break or develop various other problems. When mustard gas bonds with RNA, it can alter the creation of proteins that are dependent upon the RNA, which results in the death of the cell.  Because mustard gas also binds to some proteins, it can change the shape of those proteins, which can alter the enzyme activity. Finally, mustard gas can also alter the structural proteins of the membrane of the cell or cause the lipids within the cell to be damaged, both of which can cause the death of the cell.

Can anything be done for people who have been exposed to mustard gas? Unfortunately, the answer is "not too much." It seems that decontamination is the primary method of treatment for exposure to mustard gas. There is no antidote (at least at the time of publication of the latter article) and, although thiols have been suggested as possible treatment, there is not a wide acceptance of this method.

No comments:

Post a Comment

There was an error in this gadget