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Biochemical terrorism: Too awful to contemplate, too serious to ignore: Subjective literature review

  • David Alan Alexander (a1) and Susan Klein (a2)

It is important not to foster unnecessary public anxiety with regard to the risk of a biochemical terrorist incident, but the authorities need to consider their response strategy, particularly with regard to mental health issues.


To describe the likely effects of a terrorist incident involving biochemical agents and to identify important response issues.


Literature survey.


Observations following conventional terrorist incidents and other major trauma, including biochemical and nuclear accidents, suggest that a biochemical terrorist incident would have widespread public effects. The mental health services should play a major role in designing an effective multi-disciplinary response, particularly with regard to the reduction of public anxiety, identifying at-risk individuals and collaborating with medical and emergency services, as well as providing care for those who develop post-traumatic psychopathology.


We should not feel helpless in the face of a biochemical threat; there is considerable knowledge and experience to be tapped. Awell-designed, well-coordinated and rehearsed strategy based on empirical evidence will do much to reduce public anxiety and increase professional confidence.

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Corresponding author
Professor David A. Alexander, Aberdeen Centre for Trauma Research, Bennachie, Royal Cornhill Hospital, Aberdeen AB25 2ZH, UK
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Biochemical terrorism: Too awful to contemplate, too serious to ignore: Subjective literature review

  • David Alan Alexander (a1) and Susan Klein (a2)
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