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U.S. 'Dangerously Vulnerable' to WMDs

An independent study that recently concluded the U.S. remains "dangerously vulnerable" to chemical, biological and nuclear attacks seven years after 9/11 makes a supplement in November JEMS timely. This month, Meridian Medical Technologies presents an editorial supplement in JEMS, Fire-Rescue and Law Officer magazines on the threat of terrorism that continues to exist in the U.S. It focuses on threats via nerve, biological and radiological means, mustard agents, and explosives that release cyanide into the atmosphere.

The Response Guide For Chemical & Radiological Threats: Are We Prepared? supplement outlines each specific threat and details ways first responders can prepare for, and treat, victims -- and themselves -- when an attack occurs.

Chair of the independent group's latest study is Lee Hamilton, the former Indiana Democratic congressman who helped lead the 9/11 Commission, reported Associated Press writers Brett J. Blackledge and Eileen Sullivan. Hamilton notes that efforts to reduce access to nuclear technology and bomb-making materials have slowed, thousands of U.S. chemical plants remain unprotected, and the U.S. government continues to oppose strengthening an international treaty to prevent bioterrorism, according to the report produced by the bipartisan Partnership for a Secure America.

The group includes leaders of the disbanded 9/11 Commission, the bipartisan panel that investigated government missteps before the 2001 terror attacks. "The threat of a new, major terrorist attack on the United States is still very real," concludes the report, which was released on Sept. 11, 2008. It was released the same day a congressional commission held a hearing in New York on nuclear and biological terrorism threats.

"A nuclear, chemical or biological weapon in the hands of terrorists remains the single greatest threat to our nation. While progress has been made in securing these weapons and materials, we are still dangerously vulnerable," the report states. Both the report and studies that support its findings cite the failure of international cooperation to prevent terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction as a major problem. Many countries continue to ignore a United Nations mandate to prevent the spread of weapons, that the ability of many countries to monitor potential bioterrorism is "essentially nonexistent," and dangerous chemical weapons stockpiles remain in some countries, including Russia and Libya.

Click here to view download PDFs of the "Response Guide For Chemical & Radiological Threats: Are We Prepared?" supplement.

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