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State wants mustard gas destroyed

June 19, 2008|From the Associated Press

DENVER — Colorado health officials ordered the Defense Department to speed up its destruction of mustard gas at a chemical weapons depot, saying the military had ignored requests to do so.

Health department spokeswoman Jeannine Natterman said Wednesday's order affecting the Pueblo Chemical Weapons Depot was mandatory. About 2,600 tons of the gas are stored at the site.

Last year, Congress directed that all mustard gas stored at Pueblo and seven other chemical weapons depots around the country be destroyed by 2017, rather than an initial target date of 2023.

The Defense Department has said a shortage of money is slowing its efforts.

In a statement, the department said it would give Congress an assessment by June 30 of options for accelerating stockpile destruction by 2012, and no later than 2017.

Mustard gas was one of the first chemical weapons used in battle. Germany initiated its use in World War I. It was called mustard gas because it was contained in yellow shells.

Its effects include blindness, blisters, ulceration of the skin and respiratory tract, blood poisoning and asphyxiation.

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