War on Terror: Public Panic Buy as Threat of Chemical Attack Looms

The Birmingham Post (England), September 26, 2001 | Go to article overview

War on Terror: Public Panic Buy as Threat of Chemical Attack Looms


If you buy a respirator or a suit, what are you going to do - wear it all the time?

John Eldridge

By Anita Singh

The public was urged yesterday not to panic buy gas masks despite a World Health Organisation warning about the threat of chemical and biological attacks.

Buying a gas mask or protective suit would be virtually useless in the face of biological warfare, a leading defence expert said.

However, despite attempts to reassure the public, military supply shops across the country have been inundated with requests for gas masks and protective clothing, with many running out of stocks.

The WHO has urged governments to speed up their preparations for possible germ warfare in the wake of the terror attacks in the United States. The organisation believes terrorists may already have the capability to use biological or chemical substances as weapons of mass destruction.

But John Eldridge, editor of Jane's Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence, said: 'The threat of a chemical or biological attack has become much more likely but I don't think people should panic about it. Like all terrorist attacks, you never know when they are going to happen and they are very difficult to predict.

'We have become fairly inured to the fact there is a high risk of bomb attacks, from the IRA for example, and we don't all rush around in flak jackets and armoured cars.

'If you buy a respirator or a suit, what are you going to do - wear it all the time?'

He added: 'They would be unlikely to protect against biological weapons because these are slow-acting.

'By choosing a disease which was highly infectious and which was spread in a small population, that population could spread it throughout the world.'

The United States has already grounded crop-dusting planes over fears terrorists could use them to spread chemical or biological agents. …

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War on Terror: Public Panic Buy as Threat of Chemical Attack Looms
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