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Module 3: Inhalation of Toxic Industrial Gases

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. 

Chemical Agents of Opportunity for Terrorism Complete Course Description 

Course 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. 

Module 3: Inhalation of Toxic Industrial Gases

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.

Module Objectives

By the end of this module, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the history of important industrial gas exposures and regulatory response
  • Identify major industrial gases of interest
  • Describe the clinical picture created by the major gases of interest and be able to relate this picture to the gases' physical properties and toxicity
  • Identify methods to decrease likelihood of exposure and illness


Michael Beuhler, MD
Michael Beuhler, MD, FACMT
Medical Director, Carolinas Poison Center
Carolinas Medical Center
Charlotte, NC

Dr. Beuhler is the Medical Director for the Carolinas Poison Center (the North Carolina Poison Center) and has been for 11 years. He is also an Attending physician at Carolinas Medical Center where there is an active in- and outpatient Medical Toxicology service. He completed his Medical Toxicology fellowship training at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ and his Emergency Medicine Residency at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY. He has authored several papers that have utilized poison center data and participates in the development and conducting of toxicological public health surveillance programs.He has presented research and academic materials at several national forums as well as authoring chapters in several medical toxicology textbooks. His current research interests include bio-surveillance/public health, poison center triage criteria, mushrooms, “bath salts”, copperhead envenomations, and new antidotes.

FaminiGeorge R. Famini, PhD
Director, Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC)
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD

Dr. Famini is the Director of the Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC), established under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2006. This center, co-located with Department of Defense assets at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. provides a scientific basis for the awareness of chemical threats and the assessment of risk to the American public due to chemical hazards. The CSAC under Dr. Famini has established itself as a key interagency resource for chemical terrorism information, and has ongoing interagency collaboration with several key Departments, including the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense, the FBI, the EPA, and other key assets within DHS.

As a research chemist working in the area of applied computational chemistry, he has published over 50 technical reports and 80 journal articles addressing the use of theoretical chemistry in understanding physical, chemical and biological properties of chemical compounds. Methodologies he has developed in the areas of linear free energy relationships are in use today at several industrial companies, including Abbott and Kodak. He completed a six year appointment to the editorial board of the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Molecular Graphics and Modeling.

Dr. Famini is active in the American Chemical Society (ACS), where he served as Program Chair for the Division of Computers in Chemistry (COMP). He served on a special ACS committee celebrating the use of science and chemistry in the 21st Century. He has also been appointed as a Fellow to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, and consults with the Subcommittee on Theoretical Chemistry. 

Dr. Famini has received several awards for his scientific and technical accomplishments: including the 2001 Army Materiel Command International Achievement Award; the Polish Military Medical Academy Award for Special Achievement; the 2005 Defense Standardization Program Award; the 2005 Top 10 AMC Employee of the Year Award; the 2007 and 2014 DHS Undersecretary Awards for Program Management in Science and Technology.

Module Recording and Materials