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Chemical Agents of Opportunity for Terrorism: Toxic Industrial Chemicals (TICs) & Toxic Industrial Materials (TIMs)

In recent years, there has been growing concern that many of the most likely threats of chemical terrorism involve so-called “agents of opportunity.”  Both common and unusual industrial agents may pose a considerable threat as potential terrorist weapons.  While an understanding of the traditional military chemical weapons (e.g. nerve agents) remains essential, an appreciation of the myriad of other potential toxic chemicals readily available in our society is crucial if we are to optimally prepare, identify and defend against chemical threats. Many toxic industrial chemicals are easily obtainable from multiple sources in our communities and pose a serious threat to health if accidentally released or intentionally disseminated. 

Course Description

The American College of Medical Toxicology (ACMT) created a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-approved awareness-level training course addressing the medical and psychological impact of industrial chemicals used as terrorist weapons. With sponsorship by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Health Affairs (OHA) Chemical Defense Program, ACMT is pleased to present this expanded course in a webinar format to the response communities participating in the OHA Demonstration Projects. 

This course will utilize a symptom-based clinical approach to describe the medical impact of various chemical poisons. It will provide a framework to enhance recognition of the common health effects of apparently disparate chemical toxins, describe the risk to various healthcare workers, and introduce clinical and public health management strategies. The traditional military warfare chemical agents will not be covered in these lectures because information on these agents is readily accessible through a number of other forums. 

Target Audience 

The information presented will be of interest to state and local first responders, EMTs, paramedics, emergency physicians, emergency response coordinators, public health officials, industrial hygienists and others involved with chemical terrorism preparedness and response. Our topic selection for each course is intended to prepare the response community for their upcoming OHA Demonstration Project Tabletop exercise.  

Course Objectives 

By attending this course, the participant will be able to: 

  • Understand the concept of chemical agents of opportunity, TICs and TIMs, and appreciate the basis for increased public health preparedness.
  • Identify chemical agents of opportunity that could be used by terrorists.
  • Discuss the past use of these chemicals in mass exposure situations.
  • Describe the major health effects of TICs, TIMs and other important non-volatile chemical agents that could be used by terrorists.
  • Identify the primary modalities available to assess and treat victims of such chemical exposures.
  • Understand the psychological impact of mass chemical exposures.

Upcoming Webinars: 2015 - 2016

Module 1: Making Sense of Toxicology -- May 2015

This module provides a framework to understand and apply with confidence important toxicology principles (exposure pathway, dose-response, toxidromes, association vs. causation). CHEMM-IST (, a tool to assist the medical care provider and emergency planner in identifying the chemical class responsible for a given clinical presentation is introduced.

A recording of this module is now available for viewing on demand. Please click here for details.

Module 2: Why Toxic Industrial Chemicals? -- June 2015

This module defines TICs/TIMs and introduces the concept of “agents of opportunity”, distinguishing them from purpose-derived chemical warfare agents. Historic events and hazard ranking systems are discussed, as well as ongoing efforts such as Chemical Terrorism Risk Assessment.

A recording of this module is now available for viewing on demand. Please click here for details.

Module 3: Inhalation of Toxic Industrial Gases -- July 2015

Five industrial gases are described in this module (Methyl Isocyanate, Ammonia, Chlorine, Phosgene, and Hydrofluoric Acid). The important features of vapor density, water solubility, odor threshold; respiratory, and systemic effects are discussed. Examples of mass exposures resulting from industrial accidents or acts of terrorism are portrayed.

A recording of this module is now available for viewing on demand. Please click here for details.

Module 4: Agricultural Chemicals of Concern -- August 2015

The Food/Agricultural Sector is a critical infrastructure and constitutes nearly 20% of the U.S. economy. In addition, there are a number of chemicals transported, stored, or used onsite that have the potential for intentional or accidental misuse. This module will focus on agents of explosive concern and pesticides, including some insecticides and rodenticides.

A recording of this module is now available for viewing on demand. Please click here for details. 

Module 5: Cyanide and Fumigants -- September 9, 2015 - Register Now!

This module reviews commercial applications, characteristics, and treatment guidelines relating to cyanide and three common fumigants: Vikane (sulfuryl fluoride), methyl bromide, and phosphine.

Please click here for module details and registration information.

Module 6: Psychological Consequences of Mass Exposure [October 2015]

The normal physiologic response to fear and the difficulty in distinguishing these responses from those of true chemical exposures, are discussed in this module. The importance of planning for patients presenting “just to get checked out” and with misinterpreted physiologic responses is emphasized. 

Module 7: Risk Communication [November 2015]

This module reviews some of the major tenets of communication in a disaster or stressful situation, emphasizing synthesis of the key components of risk assessment (hazard identification, exposure pathway, modifying factors, toxicity assessment) into effective messaging. There will be an opportunity for participants to assess their own communication styles and to formulate critical message maps. 

Module 8: Neurotoxins [December 2015]

This module portrays the complexities of the central nervous system as a balance between excitatory, inhibitory, and thought modulating neuro-transmitters. The ways in which chemicals alter this balance are described (calmatives, convulsants, hallucinogens) with examples of mass poisonings and attacks. 

Module 9: Water, Food, and Medications as Vectors [January 2016]

This module explores the complexity and vulnerabilities of the water, food, and medication production and distribution systems. Historical examples of tampering are used to exemplify methods to identify and interdict chemical terrorism.

Module 10: Delayed-Onset Toxins [February 2016]

Using historic examples, the clinical presentation and psychological impact of delayed-onset toxins such as thallium, mercury, dioxins, and polybrominated biphenyls are described in this module. 

Module 11: Post-Event Medical Monitoring [March 2016]

The process and goals of medical monitoring (clinical and/or laboratory studies) are described and applied to potential chemical terrorism or mass chemical exposure scenarios in this module. 

Module 12: Tabletop Exercise [April 2016]

Using webinar polling tools, participants will respond to a developing scenario to determine recognition, response, mitigation, and recovery from a chemical terrorist attack. The importance of identifying toxidromes and use of the CHEMM-IST ( will be emphasized. The role of message mapping in risk communication will also be reviewed.