Organohalogens are a family of synthetic organic molecules which all contain atoms of one of the halogens. Such materials include PCBs, Dioxins, DDT, Freon and many others. Although considered harmless when first produced, many of these compounds are now known to have profound physiological effects on many organisms including man. Many are also fat soluble and become concentrated through the food chain.

Toxic metals

Many metals and their salts can exhibit toxicity to humans and many other organisms. Such metals include, Lead,Cadmium, Copper, Silver, Mercury and many of the transuranic metals.

Radioactive materials

Radioactive materials produce ionizing radiation which may be very harmful to living organisms. Damage from even a short exposure to radioactivity may have long term adverse health consequences.

Exposure may occur from nuclear fallout when nuclear weapons are detonated or nuclear containment systems are compromised. During World War II, the United States Army Air Forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading to extensive contamination of food, land, and water. In the Soviet Union, the Mayak industrial complex (otherwise known as Chelyabinsk-40 or Chelyabinsk-65) exploded in 1957. The Kyshtym disaster was kept secret for several decades.

It is the third most serious nuclear accident ever recorded. At least 22 villages were exposed to radiation and resulted in at least 10,000 displaced persons. In 1992, the former Soviet Union officially acknowledged the accident.

Other Soviet republics of Ukraine and Belarus suffered also when a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had a meltdown in 1986. To this day, several small towns and the city of Chernobyl remain abandoned and uninhabitable due to fallout.

The Hanford Site is a decommissioned nuclear production complex that produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. There are environmental concerns about radioactivity released from Hanford.

A number of military accidents involving nuclear weapons have also resulted in radioactive contamination, for example the 1966 Palomares B-52 crash and the 1968 Thule Air Base B-52 crash.


CBRN is a catch-all acronym for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear. The term is used to describe a non-conventional terror threat that, if used by a nation, would be considered use of a weapon of mass destruction. This term is used primarily in the United Kingdom.

Planning for the possibility of a CBRN event may be appropriate for certain high-risk or high-value facilities and governments. Examples include Saddam Hussein’s Halabja poison gas attack, the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway and the preceding test runs in Matsumoto, Japan 100 kilometers outside of Tokyo,and Lord Amherst giving smallpox laden blankets to Native Americans.