Hazardous Materials and Public Awareness
Weapons of mass destruction utilized by terrorists fall into one of five different types of substances used for that purpose: nuclear weapons, incendiary devices, chemical weapons, explosives and biological weapons. Nuclear weapons work in some cases by a process known as nuclear fission, where the nucleus of an atom splits into two fragments, releasing huge amounts of destructive energy. Other nuclear weapons work by nuclear fusion, in which two atoms’ nuclei collide at high speeds to create a single, entirely new nucleus.
Another type of substance used to terrorists to inflict harm on others is incendiary devices. These aim to blow up and sometimes to ignite fires across a wide area of space which would burn, if possible, at a very high temperature. Probably the best known kind is a Molotov cocktail, which can be made cheaply and more or less easily. Sometimes they work by combustion – the reaction of oxygen and some kind of fuel at very high temperatures – and other times by detonation, when the breakdown of molecules creates an explosion without any need for oxygen to make it happen. They make use of a variety of substances. Napalm, for instance, conventionally been used in incendiary devices. Other flammable metals like aluminum or titanium are also typical because they burn at very high temperatures.
Chemical weapons first came into use during World War I, when armies on both sides of the conflict used chlorine and phosgene to suffocate their enemies and mustard gas to inflict burns on their skin. Later, gases were developed solely for military purposes. Nazi scientists in 1938 developed sarin, a colorless, odorless gas which kills by being inhaled or absorbed through the skin and quickly paralyzing the victim’s respiratory system. It has most recently been used by the Syrian government, itself a state sponsor of terror, in war launched by its government against its own...