"They protect us, we protect them."

CBRN Risks

Radiological and nuclear risks

picto nucleaire radiologique

Do CBRN filtering suits protect against radiations?

A frequently asked question since Fukushima accident... The answer unfortunately is not so simple.

Personal protection equipments can protect you from external contamination, but not against internal contamination. There are different types of radiation: Alpha, beta, gamma and neutrons.

CBRN permeable suits (like Ouvry suits) and impermeable suits (plastic) protect against radioactive fallout. CBRN filtering suit Polycombi was tested and certified class 1 protection by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety according to EN13982-1:2004 (protection against chemical particles suspended in the air) and EN1073-2:2002 standards (protection against radioactive particles)

CBRN filtering suits are highly recommended for two main reasons :

-  It increases the intervention autonomy of the user as physiological strain while wearing a filtering suit is less important than for tightair plastic suits

-  In case of gas contamination by pomping action, filtering suits still protect you as agents are trapped into the carbon spheres layers whereas, tightair suits let radioactive gases in.

-  Filtering suits as the Polycombi create a barrier against radioactive agents which fall down or stay on the external layer of the suit. if the suit ois used correctly alpha radiations can’t reach the skin and 10% of beta radiations will be absorbed by the filtering material. Unfortunately CBRN suits don’t protect against gamma radiation.
Lead aprons are the inimum protection required against gamma radiations, but they reduce operational capabilities

Biological agents

picto biologique

Biological agents used as weapons against people, animals and cultivated lands
come from pathonenic micro-organism or their toxins. Micro-organisms can be effective at low concentration as they have self-duplication properties.
Les micro-organismes vivants ont la propriété d’autoréplication et peuvent donc agir à de faibles concentrations : . If 1g of Bacillus anthracis was spread efficiently, it could infect and kill more than 1/3 of the American population.
Toxins can’t duplicate themselves. They’re closer to chemical agents even if they have got a stronger toxicity. The lethal dose of botulinum toxin is only of 0.001 microgramme per kilo whereas the lethal dose of VX is 15 microgrammes per kilo;

Usually biological agents are classified into 3 categories

A category agents are the most dangerous, hey involve high protection measures as they can cause massive destruction if spread into population.

Bacillus anthracis,Yersinia pestis,Francisella tularensi (tularemia), smallpox, some virus like Marburg and Lassa, as well as the botulinum toxin are A category agents.

B category agents can be used on a large scale, but are generally less stronger than A . Brucella (brucellosis), Burkholderia mallei (Glanders), B. pseudomalllei (Melioidosis), Salmonella sp. , Shigella and the ricin toxin are classified as B agents

C category agents like yellow fever are not very dangerous nowadays but could become a threat if there were genetically modified.

Type B biological agents could be much more efficient if they were spread by aerosolization, but these kind of weapons don’t have a real tactical advantage as the incubation period takes several days. Nevertheless B agents are considered as a serious threat because they are more accessible than nuclear and chemical weapons and can be used during terrorist attacks.

Chemical agents

picto chimique

Chemical agents are gas, liquid, vapor or solid form substances that can be use on populations, animals and plants for its toxic effects.
Every toxic chemical products can be used during an attack but high toxicity substances are the more dangerous. Chemical weapons (as known as CBRN or CBRNe) can be lethal for humans, or have incapacitant effects.

The main chemical agents classified as CRBN threats are nerve agents (soman, sarin, tabun, VX) blister agents (lewisite, mustard gas) and gas agents like phosgene and prussic acid

Two main categories of chemical agents :

Chemical weapons - were developped for military purposes, to cause chaos and increase the mortality of the enemies. The collapse of the USSR fed parallel markets with this kind of products and some qualified chemists are also able to develop CBRN chemical agents.

Industrial products are classified into two categories : Respiratory toxicity products (chlorine, phosgene...) and systemic toxicity products (prussic acid...). Some chemical products like thallium, cyanide or mercury salts can also be toxic if they are ingested.

CBRN chemical weapons classification

By use :
Neutralizing agents - are used to temporarily incapacitate but don’t have any effect once the person is out of exposure. They can be use for riot-control, but also for chaos purposes and terrorist attacks.
Incapacitant agents - can temporarily cause illness, mental or physical incapacity. Its effects may continue after the end of exposure and they can be used for terrorist purposes.
Lethal agents - cause death by exposure during military and terrorist operations.

By mechanism:
Asphyxiants gases - are very volatile liquids like chlorine and phosgene, that can attack alveolar mucosa if they are inhaled. They are rarely used.

Blistering agents - are oily liquids which cause skin burning. The most known of these agents is mustard gas. It was developped in 1822 and first used as a chemical warfare in July 1917 in Ypres, Belgium. Mustard gas is colorless and odourless in liquid form but can turn into gas with solvents and then smell like mustard plants and garlic.The exposure triggers large blisters on skin, eyes and lungs. It can also cause blindness and cancer.
Lewisite is also a blister agent

Hemotoxins - are toxins like prussic acid and cyanogene chloride that destroy red blood cells, cause organ degeneration and generalized tissue damage. They enter into the organism through respiratory route.

Organophosphate neurotoxins

Tabun - was discovered in 1937 by Gerhard Schader in Germany. It has a fruity odor reminiscent of bitter almonds. Exposure to tabun can cause death in minutes. A fraction of an ounce (1 to 10 mL) of tabun on the skin can be fatal. It was used by Irak during the war against Iran.

Sarin (GB) - Sarin (military designation GB) is a nerve agent that is one of the most toxic of the known chemical warfare agents. It is generally odorless and tasteless. Exposure to sarin can cause death in minutes. A fraction of an ounce (1 to 10 mL) of sarin on the skin can be fatal.

VX - is tasteless and odorless. Exposure to VX can cause death in minutes. As little as one drop of VX on the skin can be fatal.

Soman - was discovered in 1944, but was never used during war even if the USSR produced it in large scale It has an odor like camphor or rotting fruit. Exposure to soman can cause death in minutes. A fraction of an ounce (1 to 10 mL) of soman on the skin can be fatal.


Nov. 2017
Paris-Nord Villepinte


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