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Mustard Gas

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Last updated date: 01st Mar 2024
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What is Mustard Gas?

Mustard gas is better known as sulfur mustard, which is a chemical molecule and happens to be a part of the sulfur-based family of blister agents and is cytotoxic. The humble roots of mustard gas are traced back to centuries where it got used as the blister agent in warfare. 


Understanding Mustard Gas in Details

Mustard gas can produce big blisters on the exposed skin and inside lungs, leading to prolonged illness and death. The pure sulfur mustards happen to be colorless. They are viscous liquids at room temperature. When they get used in impure forms, like warfare agents, they become yellow-brown and feature an odor that resembles the mustard plants, horseradish, and garlic. The mustard gas formula happens to be C4H8Cl2S.


Learning The Synthesis & Reactions for Mustard Gas Preparation

Do you want to know how to make mustard gas? Mustard gas happens to be an organic compound, and its formula is (ClCH2CH2)2S. Considering the Depretz method, it’s synthesized by treating the sulfur dichloride with ethylene. Here’s the small abbreviation of it:

SCl2 + 2C2H4 → (ClCH2CH2)2S

Considering the Levinstein process, the disulfur dichloride gets used instead.

8S2Cl2 + 16C2H4 → 8(ClCH2CH2)2S + S8

When it comes to the Meyer method, the thiodiglycol gets produced from chloroethane & potassium sulfide as well as chlorinated with the phosphorus trichloride.

3(HOCH2CH2)2S + 2PCl3 → 3(ClCH2CH2)2S + 2P(OH)3

When it is about the Meyer-Clarke process, HCl or concentrated hydrochloric acid gets used as a chlorinating agent and not PCl3. Here’s the abbreviation of it:

(HOCH2CH2)2S + 2 HCl → (ClCH2CH2)2S + 2 H2O

Thionyl chloride & phosgene get used as the chlorinating agents with the added possibility of agents that produce mechanisms of toxicity when they remain as the impurities in a finished product. Mustard gas happens to be the viscous liquid at normal temperatures. This pure compound has a melting point of 14 °C (or 57 °F) & decomposes right before boiling at around 218 °C (or 424 °F). The mustard gas reaction with sodium ethoxide results in divinyl sulfide. Here’s a small abbreviation:

(ClCH2CH2)2S + 2NaOEt → (CH2=CH)2S + 2EtOH + 2NaCl

Mustard gas might readily get decontaminated through the reaction with the chloramine-T.


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Outlining How Poisonous Mustard Gas Can Be

When someone gets exposed to the sulfur mustard liquid, it may produce second and third-degree burns. It is more dangerous when someone gets exposed to sulfur mustard vapor. As a matter of fact, extensive skin burns may also be fatal. Extensive breathing in of the vapors can cause chronic respiratory disease, repeated respiratory infections, or death.

Extensive exposure to the eye may also cause permanent blindness. When someone gets exposed to the gas, it might increase the risk for respiratory and lung cancer. Exposure to the gas may firstly cause itching. Over one day, one may experience deep blisters form. Eyes may become sore & eyelids will get swollen. If the person gets exposed to higher concentrations, corneas get damaged, and blindness may be a result. Moist parts like the eyes, lungs, and nose may be susceptible to attack. If you inhale the gas, it leads to blistering in the lungs. In case of minor damages, it results in chronic health problems. However, if the damage is severe, it results in death.

Mustard gas might react with the DNA to cause breaks in DNA strands. That causes a set of events in your cells, leading to enzymes releases and dissolving cell membranes, thereby causing cell death. On the other hand, mustard gas may deactivate the compound that is a significant defense against oxidation attacks. In such a scenario, the cell does not get attacked. However, the cell gets vulnerable to usual oxidative stresses from the reactive oxygen species, thereby leading to inflammation.


Facts to Learn

Mustard gas is also considered an anti-cancer agent. Mustard gas has been seen as a nasty poison that results in painful and slow deaths. So, ironically, while it may cause cancer, it also gets used for curing it. So, one of the most demanding mustard gas uses in the medical industry is for treating cancer. In the year 1919, not too long after its first usage gas, it was noted that the victims had low blood cell counts just because mustard gas attacked the white blood cells as well as bone marrow aplasia.

According to research in the year 1946 to show that the nitrogen mustards (that differ only from the mustard gas because of the nitrogen atom’s presence and not the sulfur atom), it reduced the growth of tumors in mice through the mechanism whereby two strands of the DNA get linked by the nitrogen mustard molecule.


Psychological Effects of Mustard Gas

Mustard agents have powerful vesicants (or blistering) effects on the victims. Besides, it’s strongly carcinogenic and mutagenic due to its alkylating properties. It’s lipophilic. People who get exposed to mustard agents suffer immediate symptoms rarely. And mustard-contaminated places might appear normal. So, victims may unknowingly get higher dosages.

Within a span of 24 hours after getting exposed to the mustard agent, victims may experience intense itching & skin irritation. It will gradually turn into big blisters with yellow fluid on the skin surface. These chemical burns are debilitating. And mustard agent vapor penetrates the clothing fabrics like cotton and wool.

So, this post has clearly given intricate details to help you get eligible about the concept of mustard gas.

FAQs on Mustard Gas

1.Why is mustard gas poisonous?

Sulfur mustard happens to be a kind of chemical warfare agent. These agents may cause blistering of your skin & mucous membranes while in contact. They happen to be blistering or vesicants. Sulfur mustard is also regarded as the mustard gas or even the mustard agent (H, HD, and HT). 

2. What are the Chemical Formula and Chemical Structure of Mustard Gas?

While the chemical formula of the mustard gas happens to be C4H8Cl2S, its chemical structure is Cl-CH2-CH2-S-CH2CH2-Cl.