First responder CBRNe training: what makes a chemical toxic?

July 19, 2019

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The risk of encountering a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear explosive (CBRNe) hazard is an ever growing reality for emergency teams in the course of routine incident response. In such situations, the extent to which they have been trained, and are confident, in the principles of CBRNe incident management and CBRNe casualty management will be of paramount importance. When assessing the toxicity risk, for example, there are some key considerations that will influence how the event is handled. In this blog post we explore some of the common terms (courtesy of the European Commission CBRN Glossary) that are especially relevant to the management of incidents involving chemical hazards. A chemical's toxicity refers to the ability of a substance to cause harmful effects. These effects may impact on part, or all, of an organism (whether at cellular level, on a group of cells, on an organ system or on the entire body). The level of toxicity of any chemical is determined by its chemical structure, the degree to which the substance is able to be absorbed by an organism, and the ability of that organism to detoxify the substance and eliminate it. The term "acute toxicity" is used to describe the harmful effects of a substance as the result of a single or short-term exposure.

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