Chemical agent

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A chemical agent (or simply agent) is any naturally occurring or manmade chemical element or compound—whether on its own or admixed—capable of producing chemical action on another element, compound, organism, or substance. The acting chemical element or compound can be in a solid, liquid, or gaseous state.[1][2]

Some chemical agents can be harmful to organisms and may be classified as hazardous chemical agents.[1] In modern times, "chemical agent" has often been used synonymously with "chemical weapon," and in fact, some scientific organizations like the Federation of American Scientists have defined a "chemical agent" as a substance that is used "to kill, seriously injure or incapacitate people,"[3] adding undue confusion to the term's usage. However, it must be noted that[4][5]:

  1. not all chemical agents are hazardous to human health nor used explicitly as chemical weapons; and
  2. exposure to a hazardous chemical agent can occur for other non-weapon reasons, including consumer misuse, inadvertent leakage, industrial accident, transportation accident, agriculture accident, mislabeled containers, human curiosity, or product tampering.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "What are Chemicals Agents?". Chemicals Act 2008 (No. 13 of 2008) and Chemicals (Amendment) Act 2010 (No 32 of 2010). The Irish Health and Safety Authority. Retrieved 21 September 2022. 
  2. Curtis, T., ed. The London Encyclopedia, or Universal Dictionary of Science, Art, Literature, and Practical Mechanics, Comprising a Popular View of the Present State of Knowledge. Thomas Tegg. p. 286. 
  3. Federation of American Scientists. "Types of Chemical Weapons". Chemical Weapons in Syria. Retrieved 21 September 2022. 
  4. Schneider, B.R. (3 January 2020). "chemical weapon". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 21 SEptember 2022. 
  5. Gad, Shayne C.; Chengelis, Christopher P. (1998). "Chapter 1: Introduction". Acute toxicology testing (2nd ed ed.). San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 1. ISBN 978-0-12-272250-9.