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Frederick R. Sidell, M.D., a noted expert on treating casualties of chemical attacks, spoke on Aug. 26 to TEEX instructors and others who train emergency medical personnel to treat victims of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The training is offered across the country by the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center, through funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office for Domestic Preparedness.

Sidell, who spent 31 years at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, treated Kurdish victims of chemical attacks and was sent by the State Department to advise Japanese physicians on treating casualties of the sarin nerve gas terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway system.

The key to treating a person who has been subject to a chemical attack is identifying the agent used and the appropriate antidote, and reaching and decontaminating the victim quickly, Sidell said. But he added, the first rule is: “Protect yourself.”

He said it would be possible for a small group of terrorists to manufacture and disseminate chemical nerve agents, many of which are insecticides. “They are easy to synthesize, relatively inexpensive and the know-how is readily available,” he said.

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