The Risk of a Biological or Chemical Attack

Demystifying the poisons that constitute biological and chemical threats is a good thing, but it is important not to minimize the danger. The danger is very real. However, it helps to know that acquiring, producing, and dispersing biological or chemical agents may be more easily said than done. Many of their characteristics reduce the likelihood that they can be transformed from weapons of "mass threat" to weapons of “mass destruction.” It is worth noting that:

  • Most biological and chemical agents are difficult and dangerous to acquire, handle, and transport.
  • Extremely sophisticated expertise and technology may be necessary to produce the agents, especially biological agents.
  • Chemical properties may make it difficult to disperse a sufficient quantity to produce toxicity – each of these agents has a toxicity threshold that must be reached in order to inflict harm.
  • Enormous quantities are necessary to contaminate a water supply or poison people at a civic gathering. This requirement reduces their potential for use as terrorist weapons.

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com