Chemical warfare agents are unarguably one of the most feared toxic substances produced by mankind. Over the last few decades, the chemical warfare agents industry has experienced an increase in the level of public interest due to its infamous association with recent military conflicts around the world. Serious measures are being undertaken to increase methods of detection.
Nowadays, there exists no doubt that chemical warfare agents (CWAs) have radically altered the way modern warfare is conducted. The worldwide collective fear caused by these toxic substances is undeniably based on their potential for unparalleled destructive power and mass destruction.
Massive efforts being made: detect, protect against, eradicate
Despite world-wide efforts to ban and to some extent limit the production and use of the numerous toxic substances conforming to the CWA space, we have witnessed their indiscriminate use against military personnel and civilian populations alike.
Thus, massive efforts spearheaded by numerous government agencies have focused on developing technologies aimed at the detection, protection against and eradication of CWAs.
Degradation is important as detection
In the field of forensic sciences, where interest in the indirect detection of a given CWA from its degradation products is an important aspect of the overall forensic analysis, innovative and ingenious analytical methods have been created to unambiguously identify materials that arise from the degradation of CWAs after their use.
Detection and identification of CWA degradation products is as important as the detection of the CWA itself since their presence along with other species can help establish the nature of the original CWA.
In their review article published in Reviews in Analytical Chemistry, the authors describes in detail the many sample derivatization techniques that cleverly modify CWA degradation products and transform them into species that are suitable for detection by the analytical technique known as Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS).
The review was written with the aim of providing a general glance of the available methods for the detection of these substances for anyone who makes use of the ubiquitous technique of GC-MS.