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Global Insights: Scientific Advances Present Challenges for Chemical Arms Control

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The recent review conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which took place April 8-19, addressed many important issues, including the need to completely eliminate the Russian and U.S. Cold War-era arsenals; states of proliferation concern that have refused to join the CWC; suspected chemical weapons use in Syria; tensions over technology-sharing and export controls; and the growing financial resource constraints on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has the lead responsibility for administering and verifying the convention.

But overshadowing all these issues are revolutionary and interrelated changes in chemistry, biology and nano and information technologies. Some of their implications are potentially positive, such as the creation of new medicines, diagnostics, sensors and other forms of protection against toxic chemicals, which could lead to improvements in antibodies, pharmaceuticals and detection technologies. In addition, nanotechnologies could lead to less bulky and cumbersome personnel-protection systems, while also making it easier to install multiple sensors on a single detection system. ...

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