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Inhalation of Irritating and Poisonous Gases

gas, effects and produced


In the Great War a wide experience of the effects of the inhalation of irritating and poi sonous gases arose from their use by the Central Powers for the purposes of attack. This use began in April, 1915, by the liberation of clouds of chlorine gas from cylinders, but in a short time a great variety of such agents was used. Some disabled the defence only for a time, such as those which caused sneezing, running at the eyes and nose, and the gas called "mustard gas", which irritated and blistered the skin---no relation to mustard. Others produced coughing and vomiting, and such as bromine and chlorine were actually suffocating, and set up acute inflammatory affections of the air-passages. One of the most lethal was phosgene, a colourless gas with a penetrating odour.

The worst were those which produced suf focating effects, and caused destructive changes in the air-passages. The immediate effects were sometimes relieved by inhalations of warm watery vapour, and the hypodermic in jection of atropine and morphia, and subse quent treatment as for acute bronchitis.

Lethal gases like phosgene, which weakened the heart, were treated by hypodermic injec tions of camphor oil. But the real remedy proved to be a respirator, which completely covered in eyes, nose, and mouth, with a cylin der attached through which air was drawn into the mouth. This canister had various layers of porous gauze, wool, charcoal, and a mixture of lime, caustic soda, and perman ganate made in a granular mixture, which neutralized the poisonous and irritating pro perties of the air as it passed through. The respirator ultimately produced for the British army was so effective that, if properly put on as soon as the alarm of a gas attack was given, the troops were completely protected from every kind of vapour.