Phosgene Oxime (CX), is a blister agent that operates similarly to the various types of mustard gas. It is a white crystalline powder which melts between 39 and 40° C and boils at 129° C. It has a high vapor pressure and has a highly irritating and unpleasant odor. It is, however, chemically unstable and decomposes quickly at high temperatures.

Phosgene affects the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. It causes corneal lesions and eventually blindness, and when inhaled, causes pulmonary edema. It is highly destructive to human skin, causing irritation that is said to be highly similar to that of stinging nettles, but far worse. Even a few milligrams applied to the skin cause irritation, intense pain, and eventually a necrotizing wound. Few chemical compounds are known to be as destructive to human tissue.

Source: Federation of American Scientists website, resources on Chemical Warfare agents.

1. Has the oder of newly mown hay and becomes a gas at 47 degrees F. It damages primarily the lungs. It must be inhaled to cause this damage.

2. At high concentrations, the chlorine part of the molecule irritates the eyes, nose, and upper airways. It may cause fatal layngospasm.

3. The real damage is done by the carbon, double bond oxygen group (carbonyl group) of the phosgene molecule. Causes severe, although not immediately apparent lung damage.

4. Phosgene is a common industrial chemical. Formally used as a chemical warfare agent. After phosgene is inhaled, the carbonyl group combines with the components of the membrane dividing the alveolus from the capillary. Fluid leaks from the blood into the alveolar septum, and then to the alveoli themselves.

5. Dyspnea at exertion worsens to dyspnea at rest. This is accompanied by a productive cough, producing clear, frothy sputum. The fluid loss after severe exposure can be as much as 1 - 2 liters per hour.

There are two major components to the physical effects of phosgene exposure leading to hypotension and hypovolemia.

a. Hypoxia caused by the fluid filled alveo.
b. Fluid loss.

Phos"gene (?), a. [Gr. light + the root of to be born: cf. F. phosgene.] Old Chem.

Producing, or produced by, the action of light; -- formerly used specifically to designate a gas now called carbonyl chloride. See Carbonyl.

<-- still called phosgene. It was used as a poison gas in World War I. -->


© Webster 1913.

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