Army to probe exposure to nerve agent VX Civilian lab worker develops eye problem

September 22, 1995|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

The commanding general of the Army's Chemical and Biological Defense Command has ordered an investigation into the suspected exposure Tuesday of four civilians to VX, a liquid nerve agent being tested at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Experts in chemical warfare agents will try to determine why one of four laboratory workers experienced myosis -- the pupil in one of his eyes grew small, said Jim Allingham, an APG spokesman.

Maj. Gen. George E. Friel ordered the investigation Wednesday, Mr. Allingham said.

The myosis suffered by an employee of Abingdon-based EAI Corp., Barry Williams, was not severe, Mr. Allingham said.

Mr. Williams had been experimenting with about a half-ounce of VX, trying to learn ways to neutralize the effects of the chemical agent that evaporates 2,000 times slower than water, Mr. Allingham said. The project is part of a continuing study of alternative technology for the destruction of the U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons, he said.

Even limited skin contact with VX can cause a runny nose, shortness of breath and blurred vision, in addition to myosis, Mr. Allingham said. Prolonged contact can cause violent spasms and even death, he said.

As a precaution, all four men were taken Tuesday to Fallston General Hospital, where they were held for observation and released at noon Wednesday, he said. All four work in the same lab.

As an additional precaution, three other civilian employees who were working elsewhere in the building were examined at the post's health clinic and released Tuesday night, he said.

Mr. Allingham said that determining when and if someone has been exposed to nerve agent is difficult. The investigation may never determine conclusively what happened, but investigators will review the movements of all involved before, during and after the incident, he said.

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