Mustard gas far from phosphates: Letter

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The Independent Online
Sir: I read the two letters by Charles Secrett and Dr K Vala Ragnarsdottir (12 October) with astonished disbelief.

Organophosphates are very dangerous chemicals but they are not related to mustard gas. So far as I know, mustard gas is made from ethylene and sulphur chloride - no phosphorus. Chlorfenvinphos and propetamphos are both organophosphates and contain phosphorus.

While it is almost certain that people using or being exposed to any of those substances might be poisoned - both acutely and cumulatively (OPs are gradually metabolised and broken down in the body, but chronic toxicity can occur) the two OPs are schedule III poisons: "Rubber gloves, a coverall and face-shield must be worn when handling concentrate."

Other objections to the letters are numerous, but I will cite only one. What evidence is there of BSE being caused by OPs? Scrapie was present in sheep 40 to 50 years before OPs were invented.


Retired entomologist

Ashford, Kent