Pulmonary agent

This article forms part of the series
Chemical agents
Lethal agents
Blood agents
Cyanogen chloride (CK)
Hydrogen cyanide (AC)
Blister agents
Ethyldichloroarsine (ED)
Methyldichloroarsine (MD)
Phenyldichloroarsine (PD)
Lewisite (L)
Sulfur mustard (HD, H, HT, HL, HQ)
Nitrogen mustard (HN1 · HN2 · HN3))
Nerve agents
Tabun (GA), Sarin (GB)
Soman (GD), Cyclosarin (GF)
EA-3148, VE, VG, VM, VR, VX
Novichok agents
Pulmonary agents
Chloropicrin (PS)
Phosgene (CG)
Diphosgene (DP)
Incapacitating agents
Agent 15 (BZ)
Riot control agents
Pepper spray (OC)
CN (mace)

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A pulmonary agent (or choking agent) is a chemical weapon agent designed to impede a victim's ability to breathe. They operate by causing a build-up of fluids in the lungs which then leads to suffocation. Exposure to the eyes and skin tend to be corrosive, causing blurred vision and severe deep burns. Inhalation of these agents cause burning the throat, coughing, vomiting, headache, pain in chest, tightness in chest, and may lead to respiratory and circulatory failure.

Examples of pulmonary agents include:

Phosgene is the most dangerous chemical of Pulmonary agents. It is a colorless gas under ordinary conditions. It has a vapor density 3.4 times greater than that of air allowing it to remain low in the air for long periods of times. Phosgene leads to massive pulmonary edema, which reaches maximum symptoms in 12 hours after exposure followed by death within 24-48 hours.

Chlorine is an element used in industry. It is one of the most commonly manufactured chemicals in the United States. It is used to make pesticides, rubber, and solvents. It is also used in drinking water and swimming pools to kill bacteria. The extent of poisoning caused by chlorine depends on the amount of chlorine a person is exposed to.


The first modern history use of a pulmonary agent was by the British and The union in the Crimean and Civil War. They simply filled shells with chlorine gas and fired. The first major use of these agents came on April 22, 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium. The Germans opened up 168 tons of chlorine gas on the French, Canadian and British troops which created a wind-borne cloud of chemical gas that opened up a breach in the lines. However, the Germans were not prepared to exploit the opening. In 1917 the Germans also introduced the agent phosgene. By then both sides had mastered the techniques of new choking agents such as diphosgene, chloropicrin, and perfluoroisoboxylene which allowed numerous attacks to be made. By the end of World War I phosgene was responsible for roughly 80% of all deaths related to chemical attacks.


  • Roland E. Langford, Introduction to weapons of mass destruction : radiological, chemical, and biological. (Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Interscience, 2004)
  • Eric A. Croddy and James J. Wirtz, Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Encyclopedia of Worldwide Policy, Technology, and History. (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2005),