Signs & Symptoms of Exposure to Sulfur Mustard

Exposure to sulfur mustard is usually not fatal, however, it can cause long term health effects, including cancer You may not know right away that exposure to sulfur mustard has happened as there may or may not be a smell or chemical odor. If you handle discarded military munitions, it is recommended that you follow up with a healthcare provider, even if you do not think you have been exposed.

You may not have signs or symptoms immediately after exposure— they may appear up to 24 to 48 hours later. If you or a coworker are exposed to liquid from the munition, rinse your eyes thoroughly with clean water for at least 20 minutes and wash your skin and hair with soap and water being careful not to scratch or break the skin and to seek immediate medical attention.

Sulfur mustard can have the following effects:

SKIN: redness and itching of the skin (2 to 48 hours after exposure); may change to yellow blisters.

EYES: irritation, pain, swelling, and tearing (3 to 12 hours after a mild to moderate exposure; 1 to 2 hours after a severe exposure). Severe exposure may also lead to light sensitivity, severe pain, or blindness lasting up to 10 days.

RESPIRATORY: runny nose, sneezing, hoarseness, bloody nose, sinus pain, shortness of breath, and cough (12 to 24 hours after a mild exposure; within 2 to 4 hours of a severe exposure).

DIGESTIVE: abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

BONE MARROW: decreased formation of blood cells (aplastic anemia) or decreased red or white blood cells and platelets (pancytopenia) leading to weakness, bleeding, and infections.

* Showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean you have been exposed to sulfur mustard. For more information on sulfur mustard visit or

Take this flyer with you to the healthcare provider


Vessel Name: ______________________________Vessel #: _____________________Time/Date: ____________________
Employee: ______________________________________

I may have been exposed to a sea-disposed chemical warfare blister agent such as sulfur or nitrogen mustard or lewisite.

OSHA Best Practices for HOSPITAL-BASED FIRST RECEIVERS OF VICTIMS from Mass Casualty Incidents Involving the Release of Hazardous Substances.

CDC helps connect providers with a network of laboratory and emergency response professionals who can assist with identifying the chemical agents and measuring human exposure levels. Contact 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or go to

Additional clinical guidance is available from the National Institutes of Health’s Chemical Emergency Medical Management website

Report the incident to the U.S. Coast Guard: 1-800-424-8802

Follow your state’s protocol for activation of the emergency response system.

Report food protection issues to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332) Option #1

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