• Chemical weaponsUN Watchdog Confirms Assad Used Chemical Weapons against Civilians

    The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Monday released the findings of the second report by the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT). IIT concludes that units of the Syrian Arab Air Force used chemical weapons in Saraqib on 4 February 2018.Since 2011, the year the civil war in Syria began, the Assad regime has launched atleast 336 chemical attacks, using Sarin and chlorine, against Sunni civilians.

  • BOOKSHELF : Nerve agentsToxic: A History of Nerve Agents, from Nazi Germany to Putin’s Russia

    By Chris Quillen

    Nerve agents are very much in the news these days. Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria repeatedly used Sarin against its own people during that country’s civil war. The Putin regime employed Novichoks in both Russia and the United Kingdom against citizens it deemed insufficiently loyal to Moscow. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un utilized VX in the assassination of his brother at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Across the globe, the use of nerve agents is challenging the international nonproliferation regime in numerous ways.

  • DetectionInnovative Chemical Weapons Detection Technology

    An innovative new chemical detection technology called SEDONA, or SpEctroscopic Detection of Nerve Agents, was recognized as a 2020 R&D 100 Award-winner.When deployed at security checkpoints, border crossings, and ports of entry across the country, SEDONA will enhance DHS’s abilities to detect and intercept dangerous chemicals and nerve agents. 

  • DetectionHarnessing Earth’s Magnetic Field to Detect Chemicals

    A newly designed spectroscopy instrument allows scientists, industry, and governments to decipher even trace amounts of chemicals using the Earth’s own magnetic field. The portable tool will help scientists, industry, and governments easily detect and identify trace amounts of chemicals.

  • BOOKSHELF: Syria’s chemical weaponsThe “Red Line” That Wasn’t

    By Chris Quillen

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons (CW) against his own people is the greatest challenge the Chemical Weapons Convention has ever faced. This breach of the taboo against CW use sparked numerous national and international investigations to determine the details of exactly what happened and who had done it. Joby Warrick’s Red Line is a useful addition to this debate, but the definitive book on the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war remains to be written.

  • Chemical detectionRobot Seeks Out Chemical Agents

    Scientists have successfully tested a fully autonomous robot that will help defense and security personnel dealing with hazardous scenes. The development of the robot means that humans and machines can now share the burden of detecting and report dangerous chemicals over large areas.

  • DetectionK9 Chemistry: A Safer Way to Train Detection Dogs

    Trained dogs are incredible chemical sensors, far better at detecting explosives, narcotics and other substances than even the most advanced technological device. But one challenge is that dogs have to be trained, and training them with real hazardous substances can be inconvenient and dangerous.

  • Chemical weaponsNew Information on Syria’s Chemical Weapons Program

    A new report offers the most comprehensive investigative report to date on Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), the entity at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons program. The report contains new information on how the Syrian government orchestrated attacks using sarin, a banned nerve agent whose use is considered a war crime.

  • The Russia connectionMystery Over Russian’s Suspected Poisoning Deepens with New FBI Records

    By Mike Eckel and Carl Schreck

    RFE/RL Exclusive: In hundreds of FBI documents obtained exclusively by RFE/RL, new clues to the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza — and new details about how serious the U.S. government considered his case.

  • Argument: Chemical weaponsHow Putin Borrowed a Page from Assad’s Chemical Weapon Playbook

    Russia use of Novichock to poison opposition leader Alexei Navalny highlights a problem against which Western countries have not yet been able to devise an effective policy: the use of chemical weapons by authoritarian regimes against domestic regime critics. Preventing Russia, or any other autocratic ruler, from using poisons against domestic opponents is a tall order, Gregory D. Koblentz writes, but “Understanding the motivations of authoritarian leaders, and the intensity of their concerns about regime security, however, is the first step towards devising an effective strategy for deterring their use of chemical, and possibly someday biological, weapons against their own people.”

  • Navalny poisoningNavalny's Team: Water Bottle with Novichok Traces Found in His Hotel Room in Tomsk

    Associates of Aleksei Navalny say traces of the nerve agent used to poison the Russian opposition politician were found on a water bottle in the hotel room he was staying in in the Russian city of Tomsk. When Navalny was flown to Germany for treatment, the bottle was sent along, and German scientists found tracers of Novichock in the bottle. Traces of the toxic Novichock, a favorite poison of the Russian intelligence services against critics of the Putin regime, were also found in samples taken from Navalny’s body.

  • PERSPECTIVE: PoisoningHistory of Nerve Agent Assassinations

    Poisoning political opponents or enemies is not new. Reviews of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) usage through the 20th century similarly list successful and attempted assassinations with mineral poisons or animal and plant toxins in and outside of war. Modern chemical weapons (CW) – typically human-made toxic compounds standardized for use on battlefields – have rarely been selected to target individuals – but a spate of recent political poisonings indicate that this may be changing.

  • PPESecond Skin Protects against Chem, Bio Agents

    Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of chemical weapons in the Syria conflict have provided a stark reminder of the plethora of chemical and biological threats that soldiers, medical personnel and first responders face during routine and emergency operations. Researchers have developed a smart, breathable fabric designed to protect the wearer against biological and chemical warfare agents. Material of this type could be used in clinical and medical settings as well.

  • PerspectiveDARPA Wants Smart Suits to Protect Against Biological Attacks

    DARPA, the Pentagon’s research arm, wants to accelerate the development of innovative textiles and smart materials to better and more comfortably protect humans from chemical and biological threats.

  • Chemical weaponsPaper-Based Sensor Detects Potent Nerve Toxins

    Chemist developed a new, paper-based sensor that can detect two potent nerve toxins that have reportedly been used in chemical warfare. The toxin, paraoxon, is thought to have been used in chemical warfare during the 1970s in what is now Zimbabwe, and later by the apartheid regime in South Africa as part of its chemical weapons program.