Suspected poisonous gas found in New York

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Three dimensional model of phosgene, COCl2.

At least six to eight vials containing a reportedly poisonous gas were found at a United Nations (U.N.) office in New York, according to reports released today. The vials were potentially hazardous and reportedly came from a chemical plant in Iraq.

The United Nations Headquarters building.

U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe assured the public they were not in danger saying, "There is no immediate risk or danger." However, the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) building was evacuated, according to federal authorities.

The recovered gas was believed to be phosgene, which is used to make pesticides and plastics. The gas can be hazardous at room temperature, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.). The gas was used frequently throughout World War I.

The gas was brought to the U.S. from a chemical weapons plant north of Baghdad in 1996.

Ewen Buchanan, a UNMOVIC spokesman, said the phosgene gas was in liquid form, "ranging in size from small vials to tubes the length of a pen," she said.

Jerry Hauer, former New York City emergency services director, told ABC News that "If it is properly sealed, it should not pose much of a threat unless it is dropped" and "They need to get it out of there and put it in a safe canister...It shows immense stupidity to have that kind of thing sitting around as a souvenir."

No toxic vapors were found in the air and no one was injured. FBI agents, WMD teams, as well as hazmat units were all reporting to the scene.

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