Biological Hazards

Biological Hazards

Andrew’s Note:  Today we return to the MULTI-SERVICE DOCTRINE FOR CHEMICAL, BIOLOGICAL, RADIOLOGICAL, AND NUCLEAR OPERATIONS , FM 3-11, MCWP 3-37.1, NWP 3-11, AFTTP 3-2.42 dated July 2011, Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.  Today’s entry is the third entry in this series.  In the first article in this series we discussed  Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Incidents and Hazards, in the second entry we went more in depth on Chemical Hazards.  Today’s extract goes into more depth on Biological Hazards and we’ll discuss Radiological Hazards in the next installment.


Caution Biohazard1-30. Biological hazards pose unique challenges because they are relatively easy to produce and difficult to detect; their production facilities have no unique signature. A biological hazard is an organism or substance derived from an organism that poses a threat to human or animal health. This can include medical waste or samples of a microorganism, virus, or toxin (from a biological source) that can impact human health.

Biological Weapons

1-31. A biological weapon projects, disperses, or disseminates a biological agent, including arthropod vectors.  Militarily significant characteristics for biological aspects of operations in CBRN environments include a normally vulnerable target population, infectious or toxic agents with highly lethal or incapacitating properties, agent availability or adaptability for scaled-up production, agent stability, and agent suitability for aerosol dispersion. Limiting factors include biological properties (particularly rapid decay), environmental factors, and dissemination methods.

Biological Agents

1-32. A biological agent is a microorganism that causes disease in people, plants, or animals or causes the deterioration of materiel. Biological agents are microorganisms that are capable of spreading disease through humans and agriculture. They are categorized as:

  • Pathogens. Pathogens are disease-producing microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, rickettsia) that directly attack human, plant, or animal tissue and biological processes.
  • Toxins. Toxins are poisonous substances that are produced naturally (bacteria, plants, fungi, snakes, insects, and other living organisms), but may also be produced synthetically. Naturally occurring toxins are nonliving byproducts of cellular processes that can be lethal or highly incapacitating.

1-33. Biological agents pose a singular threat due to five factors:

  • Small doses can produce lethal or incapacitating effects over an extensive area.
  • They are difficult to detect in a timely manner.
  • They are easy to conceal.
  • They can be covertly deployed.
  • The variety of potential biological agents significantly complicates effective preventative or protective treatment.

These factors—combined with small employment signatures; delayed onset of symptoms; detection, identification, and verification difficulties; agent persistence; and communicability—can confer important advantages to adversaries who use biological agents.

1-34. Toxic industrial biologicals include any biological material manufactured, used, transported, or stored for industrial, medical, or commercial processes that could pose an infectious or toxic threat. The release of toxic industrial biological hazards can occur following an incident, attack, or damage at a facility that handles, produces, stores, or recycles biological material. Examples include hospitals, medical facilities, agricultural facilities, and facilities that recycle biological materials for medical, pharmaceutical, or agricultural industries.

Other Sources

1-35. Other biological-related hazards are pandemics and naturally occurring diseases. Pandemics may include Ebola and West Nile viruses or diseases that are widespread and associated with affecting a large portion of the population within a geographic region.

468 ad

Join the conversation

%d bloggers like this: