Research is ongoing at Rutgers about what to do if the unthinkable happens — a terror attack using chemical weapons. The university has a new  $19 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue ongoing research.

Jeffrey Laskin, chief of Rutgers' division of toxicology, said that at the heart of the research "there is a concern that we might be subjected to chemical terrorism in this country, and the question becomes, 'What do we do about it?'"

According to Laskin, chemical weapons for warfare have been used for a very long period of time, in terms of "modern warfare." Mustard gas was used about 100 years ago, during World War I, then many times since.

"We are certainly concerned about it, especially in terms of protecting our war fighters," Laskin said.

He said the medical community is greatly concerned, because if people who are exposed come to the hospital or emergency room, first-responders have to treat people out in the community, "and right now, for almost all of these chemicals that could be used in terrorism, there is really no good treatment."

The National Institutes of Health has decided to invest in this area, to try to understand how these chemicals work.

Laskin said it is not only about terror or warfare. He suggested a scenario where a railroad tank car overturns, and there is a dangerous leak of a highly-toxic chemical. In a place like New Jersey, with its high concentration of chemical industries, that is always a dangerous possibility, he said.

He said the research has been ongoing for 11 years and Rutgers has already received $40 million for this work.

"Based on observations about how these chemicals work, we will try to use our resources at Rutgers to come up with antidotes to these chemicals," Laskin said.

The Rutgers research is being conducted in concert with other agencies and the military.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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