Lewisite causes immediate damage to the skin, eyes, and respiratory (breathing) tract.
In addition to its irritative effects, the effects of lewisite exposure are similar to those of arsenic poisoning, including stomach ailments and low blood pressure.
Lewisite causes the following symptoms (all health information was gathered from animal studies, since there are no known cases of human exposure):
- Seconds to minutes:
Skin pain and irritation
Immediate eye irritation, pain, swelling, and tearing
Runny nose, sneezing, hoarseness, bloody nose, sinus pain, shortness of breath, and cough
- 15 to 30 minutes:
- Within hours:
Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
Low blood pressure or "lewisite shock"
- Within days:
Blisters form lesions
- Within weeks:
Discoloration of the skin
Lewisite may cause the following long-term health effects after prolonged exposure or in the case of exposure to high doses:
- Skin burning
- Chronic respiratory disease
- Permanent blindness
Lewisite Diagnosis and Treatment
- The smell of lewisite may signal arelease.
- Diagnosis is confirmed from people's symptoms.
- British-Anti-Lewisite is the preferred antidote and is most effective if given immediately after exposure.
Lessening the Impact of Lewisite Exposure
- Move away from the site of exposure immediately and go to higher ground for fresh air.
- As soon as possible, remove outer layer of clothing, place it in a plastic bag, and seal.
- Immediately wash body thoroughly with soap and water.
- Flush irritated eyes with plain water for 10 to 15 minutes.
- If lewisite has been swallowed, do not induce vomiting or drink fluids.
- Seek medical attention immediately.
More information on disasters and emergencies is available at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's website: http://www.hhs.gov/emergency