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Old and New Toxic Threats

Published måndag 14 juni 2010 kl 14.30
US soldiers testing for anthrax in Afghanistan

With the Cold War over, and the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction on Iraq, you might think that the threat from gas or germ bombs is very slight. But now experts say that it's not just countries who can make and use such weapons - more and more it's criminal or political groups who have the capability. We look at this development, and at the measures to defend against this kind of attack, in the context of a conference and an exhibition hosted in Stockholm.

Clas Lindqvist, from the Saab defence company, displays a canister designed to contain suspected chemical or biological agents.

"With this package you can send it directly to the laboratory, and it's the only product on the market that can do this right now."

"It has been used by Swedish forces in Afghanistan, in Kosovo and in Sweden as well."

The list of delegates to this event included one from Iran. How do Israeli participants feel about this?

Jehudah Fehlauer is with Beith-El industries.

"We have not met this guy, and we are not particularly worried."

What about criticisms against Israel's own use of chemical weapons?

"This belongs to politics. We are businessmen, we try to sell our systems, and we don't think to much about these political questions, they don't relate to us."

Professor Åke Sellström, of Umeå university, says that the new worry is that terrorists learn how to handle chemical or biological materials.

So will we be heading back a time where everyone carries around gas masks, like WW2, if such weapons can proliferate? Professor Sellström says that an anthrax threat in the USA a few years ago caused ripples in Sweden - he was involved in discussions with the government about issuing gas masks. Many were sent down to Stockholm, but never distributed.

The real danger, says the professor, is from the knowledge that scientists hold.

"If you get scientists motivated, it's a danger."

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