Thursday, January 12, 2012

Arsenic's Poisoned Reputation

Arsenic is called the "King of Poisons" and the "Poison of Kings" due to its long history. Interested readers (I'm looking at you, Jason) can GIY or perhaps even suggest a reference in the comments.

Lesser known is arsenic's more recent role in our own poison gas warfare program. I mentioned Lewisite here, but I thought that a more formal introduction was in order. Even a non chemist can recognize arsenic's central role in Lewisite's structure. Here it is:

Lewisite, chemical structure

We made a lot of Lewisite shortly after WW I but we never deployed it as far as I know. Ridding our stockpiles has taken forever and an old cache was recently found in Washington, D.C.  Arsenic just can't doff its nasty reputation, even cloaked in disguise.


  1. I'm just interested because I occasionally have to test for the stuff, since California has such strict arsenic regulations.

  2. that's because gas is more a 'terror' thing than an actual effective weapon. Look at all that Gabin and Sarin the Germans piled up in WWII and didn't use! And it's not because the Nazis were "nice guys" about using evil weapons.

  3. Gases are intrinsically hard to control. At Ypres, I understand that the conditions were just right for deploying chlorine. Other times, the Germans suffered when the gas blew back, even though they had protection.