CDC Recommends Caution about Nerve Agent Disposal
April 11, 2005

Chemical weapons (nerve agents) are some of the most deadly substances in the world. At the US Army Newport Chemical Depot (Newport, Indiana), 1,269 tons of the nerve agent called "VX" sits in 1,690 containers. The Army wants to destroy the VX by treating it with chemicals. This treatment would make the VX less dangerous and create several million gallons of waste water called caustic VX hydrolysate (CVXH). The CVXH then would be transported from Indiana to Deepwater, New Jersey, where the CVXH would be treated and then dumped into the Delaware River.

In April, 2005, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that may block the Army's plan. The CDC thinks that the plans for converting VX to CVXH and for transporting the CVXH to New Jersey are adequate, but it does not think that dumping the treated CVXH into the Delaware River is a good idea. The ecological effects that CVXH might have on the plants and animals in the Delaware River are unknown. For example, small leftover amounts of VX or other dangerous materials from the treatment process may contaminate the water in the Delaware River. Because of these potential problems, the CDC has recommended a review of the Army's plan to treat and dispose of CVXH in New Jersey.

Most people would agree that it is a good idea to destroy the stockpiles of deadly chemical weapons. However, it is best to have a safe plan to dispose of these materials -- one that will not damage the environment or harm people and wildlife.

Did you know?

  • The first nerve agents were manufactured to control pests.
  • VX was first made in 1952.
  • Nerve agents are clear and colorless and may have no odor or a faint, sweetish smell.
  • Nerve agents block the enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.
  • 10 mg of VX applied to the skin can be deadly.

References and further information:

  1. CDC Review of the US Army Proposal
  2. US Army Chemical Materials Agency
  3. Nerve Agents - Neuroscience for Kids

BACK TO: Neuroscience In The News Table of Contents

Send E-mail
Fill out survey
Get Newsletter
Search Pages