Last month, the Pentagon confirmed that the US destroyed its last declared chemical weapon, completing a decades-long effort to rid US munitions stockpiles of deadly chemicals, the Washington Post reported.
The last chemical weapon was a rocket filled with the nerve agent sarin. It was destroyed at a Kentucky munitions plant in early July.
In 1986, Congress directed the eradication of US chemical weapons. And in 1997, the United States joined 192 other countries in signing the Chemical Weapons Convention prohibiting the creation and stockpiling of chemical weapons by September 30, 2023.
Since 1997, 3.5 million munitions and thousands of containers holding chemical agents were destroyed in the US.
At its peak, the chemical weapons stockpile in the United States was about 30,000 metric tons.
According to the Pentagon, the last 10 percent took over a decade to destroy. While the US was the last country in the Chemical Weapons Convention to complete its removal of chemical weapons stockpiles, the Pentagon noted the congressional requirement to develop safe alternatives to incineration as one reason the process took so long.
Chemical agents are considered weapons of mass destruction as they can disperse aerosols, gases, liquids, or powders that can incapacitate or kill. Some chemicals cause the skin to blister while others destroy the nervous system or cause suffocation.
According to the Pentagon, the US also assisted other countries in the destruction of their chemical stockpiles, including Albania, Libya, and Russia.
While both Russia and China are signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention, US officials have expressed concern over whether they have followed through on the pledge to eliminate their stockpiles and end chemical weapons programs.
Almost 100,000 people were killed in World War One by chemical weapons, according to the United Nations. Since then, chemical weapons have been responsible for the deaths of at least 1 million people worldwide.