Last Of The World's Declared Chemical Weapons Have Been Destroyed

The US, the last official possessor state, has finished destroying the last of its chemical weapon stockpiles.


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

French paratroopers take part in a training exercise for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare

French paratroopers take part in a training exercise for nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare.

Image credit: Fred Marie/

The US has finished destroying the last of its chemical weapon stockpiles. Since it is the last state to declare possession of these dreadful tools of war, this recent action means that the world is officially free from chemical weapons – on paper, at least. 

The US Department of Defense (DOD) recently announced that the nation's “obsolete” stockpile of chemical weapons has been safely destroyed in accordance with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. 


At its peak in the mid-1980s, the US possessed 30,000 tons of chemical warfare agents. These included nerve agents, such as sarin and tabun, that disrupt the mechanisms by which nerves transfer messages to organs, as well as blister agents like mustard gas, which cause severe irritation to the skin, eyes, and lungs.

In 1986, with the Cold War slowly coming to a close, Congress required that all stockpiles of US chemical warfare agents be destroyed. This plan was affirmed in 1997 when the US ratified the United Nations International Chemical Weapons Convention treaty, a global agreement designed to rid the world of chemical weapons. 

The US started getting rid of their chemical weapons in 1990, but the long process has only just been completed. In their recent announcement, the DOD added that the final sarin nerve agent-filled M55 rocket was destroyed on July 7 at the Blue Grass Army Depot, Kentucky. 

Chemical weapons were first used in the First World War where they killed around 100,000 soldiers, while many of those who survived chemical weapons attacks were left with lifelong health complications. 


The prolific use of mustard gas during the war was widely condemned as a “barbaric innovation” and governments sought to crack down on its use. This led to the signing of the Geneva Protocol in 1925, which outlawed the use of chemical weapons. 

Nevertheless, many of the world’s major powers – including the US – continued to use them. One of the most significant uses of chemical weapons by the US was the Vietnam War where vast quantities of Agent Orange, a powerful and highly toxic herbicide, were used to destroy forest cover and farms of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. 

The US has argued that Agent Orange is merely a "tactical defoliant," not a weapon, but the chemical caused a horrifying amount of harm to people’s health. It’s estimated that over 300,000 US veterans and over 400,000 Vietnamese people died from exposure to Agent Orange, while potentially millions have been left with lifelong disabilities, including severe birth abnormalities. 

It’s also been strongly implied that the US used white phosphorus as a chemical weapon against insurgents in Iraq during the assault on Falluja in 2004.


Given this grim track record of chemical weapons, the recent news from the US has been welcomed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. However, it’s still possible that some nations are still in possession of chemical weapons, but have failed to declare them to international authorities. 

Syria, for one, was accused of using illegal chemical weapons against its own civilians in August 2013. Syria’s Assad regime has strongly denied this, but the United Nations is wary that they are still unable to verify whether the country is storing chemical weapons in secret stockpiles.


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