(Times of Israel) During World War I — the first war in modern history that included the widespread use of chemical weapons — 500 soldiers of the US Army’s 3rd Division exhibited debilitating symptoms of gas exposure: chest pain, difficulty breathing, and blurred vision. It was later discovered that the division had never been exposed to a chemical agent. The press quickly dubbed the phenomenon “gas mania.”
Seventy years later, during the six-week Iran-Iraq War of the Cities of 1988, at least 100,000 (some estimate as many as 1.5 million) residents fled Tehran in response to Saddam Hussein’s threat to load chemical warheads onto the Scud missiles that were hitting the Iranian capital.
In 1991, during the Gulf War, nine people were killed as a result of missile attacks on Israel, seven of whom died by suffocating inside their gas masks when they failed to release the airtight cap. Twenty-seven percent of all injuries during this time were the result of unnecessary atropine injections.
“The punchline in all these events, of course, is that chemical weapons weren’t even used. Just the rumor — the threat — of chemical weapons was enough to cause something of that magnitude,” said Glenn Sullivan, a psychologist who co-authored a book on the psychology of terrorism.