Perhaps the public has become somewhat desensitized by nuclear war, but the idea of unseen agents loosed in the water supply, or used to burn without fire, causes panic to a greater degree (Tucker, 2008, 112-15).
An interesting paradigm regarding the fear factor involved in chemical and biological terrorism may surround the psychological issues that have surrounded the possibility of nuclear fear for decades, almost desensitizing people to it — and the thought that they would either be instantly vaporized, or at least face a quick death. With biologics and chemicals, though, the fear is more of slowly dying, sick, bleeding, etc. such as shown in the films Outbreak or the Andromeda Strain (Smithson, 2004).
Chemical Weapons — Chemical warfare and weaponry is nothing new to the scene of terrorism and war, especially after the advances made during World War I. The destructive effects of chemical weapons are their toxic nature, burning of the skin, eyes, or inhalation into lungs, not their explosive power. They are considered weapons of mass destruction by the United States
government, and are outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 (See: ccwtreaty.state.gov).
Chemical terrorism is terroristic warfare that uses weapons that are chemically based, such as gas, burning agents, or other liquid or gaseous compounds. Unlike the chemical warfare that so terrorized the soldiers in World War I, in which trenched troops shot poisonous shells into each others trench cities, or gassed whole planes of battle, is it more systematic and targeted. It differs, too, from a military use of such agents against a human population, for example the use of poisons by Sadaam Hussein against his own minority populations. Chemical terrorism is similar in many ways to biological terrorism, but the agents and toxins used operate in a different manner — chemically induced carnage from the outside of the body as opposed to bioligically induced destruction from the inside of the body moving outward (Taylor, 2001; Falkenrath, et.al.
Biological Weapons – a bioterrorism attack uses biological weapons (viruses, bacteria, or germs) that are released in a manner that will negatively impact either humans, flora or fauna in a given environment. The particular agents involved must be deliberately set upon a population and may be natural forms or genetically manipulated agents that are more virulent than naturally found in nature, or resistant to current treatment or detection. These deadly agents may be airborne, ingested in drinking water, or become part of the food chain. This is the crux of their popularity — they are often difficult to isolate and detect and often are latent for hours or days prior to symptoms, allowing the terrorist to be far away from the specified population when it becomes clear a biological was used. Some of the most power (smallpox, etc.) can be spread from person to person, some (Ebola) are so virulent they often kill their host prior to recontamination and others (anthrax, for example) must be touched or ingested by the individual for the effect to occur (“Bioterrorism Overview,” CDC, 2007).
Every society has suffered more from disease than warfare, even though one might argue that the first case of biological warfare was unleashed upon the Aztec and Maya by the Spanish Conquistadores. In fact, many experts believe that without the outbreaks of smallpox, measles, and venereal disease, there would not have been a Spanish victory (Diamond, 2005)..