Sea-dumped chemical weapons: environmental risk, occupational hazard.
A 35-year-old active duty service member sustained a 6.5% body surface area burn as a result of exposure to the chemical warfare agent sulfur mustard, which is the most severe mustard exposure of a U.S. military member since World War II that is known to us. New techniques were used to demonstrate the detectable persistence of mustard metabolites in the patient's blood for at least 41 days after exposure, validating these techniques for the first time for a human mustard patient; they were also used for the first time with human mustard blister fluid. The techniques extend eightfold the period of time that mustard exposure can be definitively diagnosed, compared with previous techniques. Although this patient's lesions were never life-threatening, he required 2 weeks of intensive burn care. He has been left with ongoing posttraumatic stress disorder and has had an incomplete dermatological recovery. In a major terrorist attack involving many patients exposed to sulfur mustard, care resources would be depleted quickly.