views updated May 18 2018


Since ancient times, use of poison has been considered treacherous and, therefore, incompatible with honorable conduct in war. Yet, the history of mankind is blemished with numerous examples of combatants and civilians falling victim to various kinds of poisonous gases, which not only kill, but burn or paralyze the human body; singe lungs; cause blindness, malformations, cancer, and neuropsychiatric damage; or produce permanent genetic mutations, persistently affecting the health of the survivors' succeeding generations.

Use of Gas as a Method of Warfare

The history of the use of gas in the theater of war goes back to the fourth century bce, when the belligerents in the Peloponnesian War created toxic fumes by igniting pitch and sulfur. However, it was not until the first large-scale use of poison gas by the German army in World War I (1914–1918) that the horrors of gassing were utterly unveiled. The gas attack was launched in April 1915 on the battlefields near Ypres, Belgium, and claimed as many as 5,000 lives and 10,000 casualties. By the end of the war, toxic chemicals, such as chlorine, mustard, and phosgene gases, had wounded more than one million soldiers and civilians and had resulted in nearly 100,000 ghastly deaths.

Use of Gas as a Means of Extermination

At the dawn of World War II (1939–1945), gassing ceased to serve only as a method of warfare. Instead, it developed into the means of extermination in the hands of the German Reich.

The Nazis began utilizing gas in September 1939, initially for the purposes of medical experiments, and later for a calculated slaughter of incurable and mentally ill patients, euphemistically referred to as euthanasia ("good death") program. The method of gassing then in use was the canalization of the exhaust of internal-combustion engines into rooms disguised as showers.

In August 1941 the killing of the sick with carbon monoxide gas was brought to an end. This did not, however, end the Reich's gassing scheme. In contrast, this was precisely the time when the Nazis began to use gas in the pursuit of Adolf Hitler's gruesome plan to exterminate Jews. In its initial stages, the gassing was performed by mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen), which operated hermetically sealed trucks with engine exhaust channeled into the interior compartments. Although the gas vans took a heavy toll (nearly 700,000 victims), they were eventually deemed inefficient for the success of Hitler's Final Solution to what he termed the "Jewish problem." Consequently, in 1942 the Nazis replaced the mobile killing units and their vans with permanent gas chambers, each capable of holding hundreds of people at a time.

The chambers still employed engine exhaust as the killing gas, at first. Due to the frequent mechanical breakdowns of engines, however, in 1943 Commandant Rudolf Hess of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp ordered the replacement of carbon monoxide gas with hydrogen cyanide crystals (Zyklon B), which turn into lethal gas immediately upon contact with oxygen. The first experiment with Zyklon B, typically used as a disinfectant, was conducted in September 1941 on Russian prisoners of war and inmates of the infirmary. Ultimately, Zyklon B proved the most effective technique of extermination. At the peak of its use, more than 12,000 Jews were being gassed each day at Auschwitz alone.

Use of Gas after World War II

Apart from the use of gas by Egypt against Yemen in the 1960s, the world was free of extensive gassing operations until 1983, when the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein launched a chemical campaign in the war against Iran (1980–1988). According to estimates, gases were deployed 195 times, killing or wounding 50,000 Iranians. In April 1987 Hussein turned the poison against his hated internal opponents, the Iraqi Kurds, as well. He launched at least forty gas assaults against the Kurdish population, the most dreadful of which occurred in 1988, between March 16 and March 19, in the town of Halabja. There, mustard gas and the nerve gases sarin and tabun killed 5,000 civilians.

Prohibition of Gas by International Law

The prohibition of poison is one of the oldest rules of the law of the armed conflict. Correspondingly, the use of poison gas, which causes unnecessary suffering and superfluous injury to combatants, and—as a weapon of mass destruction—indiscriminately affects civilian populations, stands in blatant violation of the most vital rules of international customary law applicable to the conduct of armed hostilities: the principles of distinction, military necessity, humanity, and dictates of public conscience.

Gassing has been prohibited since the nineteenth century by more than just customary law. Written agreements, the first being the 1874 Brussels Convention on the Law and Customs of War, and the 1899 Hague Declaration, ban the use of projectiles filled with gases. The landmark twentieth-century treaties include the 1907 Hague Convention IV Respecting the Law and Customs of War on Land (which reaffirmed the ban on poison); the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (which constituted a desired response to the atrocities of World War I, but did not provide for any compliance mechanisms); the 1972 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons; and, most important, the 1993 Convention on the Prohibition of Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

Bringing Those Responsible to Justice

Under contemporary international criminal law, reflected in the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the employment of asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases during armed conflicts is deemed a war crime. The utilization of gases as a method of murder or extermination can be qualified as either a crime against humanity or a crime of genocide.

The first international judgment on the gassing of civilians was issued in the aftermath of World War II by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, which convicted a number of major German war criminals for war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed, inter alia, through the use of gas. In the subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings, between 1946 and 1949, similar convictions were imposed upon the physicians who participated in the Nazi euthanasia program or mustard gas experiments (the Doctors Trial), and against SS administrators involved in the construction of gas chambers (In Re Pohl and Others). Finally, in a momentous trial known as the Zyklon B case, two German industrialists—Bruno Tesch and Karl Weinbacher of the Tesch and Stabenow company—were sentenced to death for supplying Zyklon B to the concentration camps. Significantly, the court rejected the defendants' contention that they lacked awareness that the toxic pellets were used for extermination, rather than for decontamination. In contrast, an analogous argument was accepted in the trial of executives from the I. G. Farben company, whose subsidiary firm—Degesch—was shipping Zyklon B to death camps along with Tesch and Stabenow. One of the most recent prosecutions occurred in 1963, when the national court of the Federal Republic of Germany convicted Robert Mulka, an adjutant to Hess and a supplier of Zyklon B to the Auschwitz gas chambers.

SEE ALSO Auschwitz; Einsatzgruppen; Ethiopia; Iraq; Kurds; War Crimes


Center for Nonproliferation Studies (2004). "Chronology of State Use and Biological and Chemical Weapons Control." Available from

Goldblat, Jozef (1995). "The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention: a Significant Step in the Process of Multilateral Disarmament." In The Convention on the Prohibition and Elimination of Chemical Weapons: a Breakthrough in Multilateral Disarmament, ed. Daniel Bardonnet. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

Gutman, Israel, ed. (1990). Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Lippman, Matthew (1996). "Fifty Years after Auschwitz: Prosecutions of Nazi Death Camp Defendants." Connecticut Journal of International Law 11:199–278.

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (2002). "Background of Chemical Disarmament." Available from

Power, Samantha (2002). "Iraq: Human Rights and Chemical Weapons Use Aside." In A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Basic Books.

Reitlinger, Gerald (1961). "The Gas Chambers." In The Final Solution: the Attempt to Exterminate the Jews of Europe 1939–1945. New York: A.S. Barnes & Co.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2004). "Holocaust Learning Center." Available from

Paulina Rudnicka


views updated May 29 2018



Gas, or flatus, is produced when naturally occurring bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract begin to break down, or digest, food. When an excess of air builds up in the tract from swallowing air or a disorder that prevents digestion, it is released as gas. Gastrointestinal gases include methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and hydrogen.


Gas production is an essential, normal function of the gastrointesinal tract, and most healthy individuals pass up to 1,200 cc (over 40 oz) of gas each day. However, when gas causes excessive pain and cramping (colic ) then evaluation and treatment are appropriate.

Causes & symptoms

Gastrointestinal gas production can be increased by certain foods, illnesses, and some medications. Common causes of excessive gas include:

  • Gas-producing foods. Onions, beans, the cabbage family, and other fibrous foods can cause excessive gas or intestinal spasms in some individuals.
  • Gastrointestinal diseases and disorders. Increased flatulence is a defining symptom of irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis , lactose intolerance, malabsorption problems, dysbiosis (digestive problems), and other gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Air swallowing. Swallowing too much air while eating or chewing gum can introduce extra gas to the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Medications. Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications may cause gas as a side-effect.
  • Stress and food allergies can also cause gas.

Symptoms of excessive gas production include:

  • flatulence
  • belching, or burping
  • abdominal cramping, or colic
  • abdominal pain


A thorough medical and dietary history and physical examination performed by a healthcare professional can usually identify the cause of gas pains resulting from changes to diet or medication. Gas problems triggered by gastrointestinal disease may be harder to diagnose, and will typically require additional medical testing such

Remedy Description
AcupressurePress inward at the point three finger widths below the navel known as Conception Vessel 6.
ExerciseExercise after meals and regularly to increase digestion and expel gas.
Herbal medicineAnise water, peppermint or chamomile tea, and fennel may relieve gas.
HomeopathyCarbo vegetabilis is used to relieve gas. Nux vomica is used to treat gas that accompanies constipation. Chamomilla is used to treat gas in infants.
DietIncrease fiber intake. Do not mix carbohydrates with proteins at the same meal. Avoid beans, peas, cheese, sodas, and alcohol. Do not overeat. Chew food well and eat slowly.
HydrotherapyAlternate a warm compress with a vigorous cold friction rub on the abdomen.
YogaThe Boat, Bow, Cobra, and Pigeon positions all encourage digestion and help relieve gas pain.

as colonoscopy, barium enema, or an upper and/or lower gastrointestinal (GI) series.


For excessive gas caused by a particular food or beverage, adjustments to diet can relieve most symptoms. Gas caused by air swallowing can be alleviated by eating more slowly and avoiding gum chewing.

An herbalist or naturopathic healthcare professional may recommend a preparation of a carminative (gas reducing) herb such as valerian (Valeriana officinalis ), or peppermint (Mentha piperita ), which may be helpful in eliminating discomfort and gas-related bloating.

Homeopathic remedies for excessive intestinal gas include Carbo vegetabilis, Nux vomica, and Chamomilla. The prescription of a specific homeopathic remedy will depend on an individual's overall symptom picture, mood, and temperament, and should only be prescribed by a qualified homeopathic physician.

Hydrotherapy, acupressure, acupuncture , yoga, reflexology , and mild exercise can also help to relieve the pain and discomfort of excessive gas.

Allopathic treatment

Over-the-counter preparations of the enzyme alpha-D-galactosidase (Beano) can alleviate gas symptoms caused by ingestion of certain foods in some individuals. These preparations are typically available in liquid or tablet form. Other non-prescription medications such as Gas-X, Phazyme, and Mylanta contain the ingredient simethicone, which can reduce gas bubbles within the gastrointestinal tract.

Expected results

Mild excess gas is typically easy to treat, especially that triggered by dietary causes. Gas caused by gastrointestinal disease may be more difficult to manage, and successful treatment depends on the type and severity of the disorder.


Malabsorption problems
A condition in which the intestinal tract is not able to absorb adequate nutrients from the food which passes through it (e.g., celiac disease, tropical sprue).


Avoiding fermented foods, drastic increases in fiber intake, and excessive air intake can prevent gas in some individuals. Lactose intolerant individuals should avoid dairy products.



Hoffman, David. The Complete Illustrated Herbal. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1999.


Wu, Olivia. "Miss the Bloat: How to Avoid Bloating." Vegetarian Times (June 2000): 80.


The National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Office of Communications and Public Liaison. NIDDK, National Institutes of Health, 31 Center Drive, MSC 2560, Bethesda, MD 20892-2560.

Paula Ford-Martin


views updated Jun 11 2018


Members of Congress Question Increases in Gas Prices

Concerns regarding high gas prices coupled with record profits earned by major oil and natural gas companies led members of Congress to question actions taken by these companies to control costs. Although two Senate committees held a joint hearing in November to discuss the gas situation, gas prices during the spring of 2006 continued to escalate.

Since 2003, prices of gasoline and oil have escalated considerably. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Energy, the average price of gasoline per gallon (for all formulations) on December 29, 2003 was $1.478 cents per gallon. On September 5, 2005, this number reached $3.069, and although prices dropped during the winters of 2005 and 2006, the average price had risen back to $2.919 on May 1.

At the same time that the gas prices surged, so too did profits earned by major oil companies. During the third quarter of 2005, the top 21 energy companies operating in the U.S. reported a combined $26 billion in net income, representing a 69% profit increase from the third quarter of 2004. ExxonMobil saw the greatest dollar increase, with a $9.9 billion profit on $100 billion in revenue, representing a 75% increase from the previous year. ConocoPhillips' third-quarter profit in 2005 increased by 89% from the previous year. Other major companies, such as Shell and BP, also saw substantial increases.

Concerns about and damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma were partially to blame for the price increases. However, members of Congress expressed concerns about the possibility that gas companies engaged in price-gouging. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) publicly questioned the activities of these gas companies. "Oil and gas companies are enjoying record profits," he said. "That is fine. This is America. However, there have been allegations of price gouging in the wake of the hurricanes. This is unacceptable, and any company who does it will be prosecuted."

Shortages in the capacity of existing oil refineries have been blamed for part of the recent increases in gas prices. The last oil refinery in the U.S. was built nearly 30 years ago by Marathon Oil in Garyville, Indiana. Some Democrats in Congress have alleged that oil companies have refused to increase capacity of their refineries because this could reduce the gas prices. Samuel Bodman, Secretary of Energy, has also stated that oil companies should boost refinery capacity.

In addition to the rising prices in oil, the price of natural gas has escalated dramatically in recent years. One possible solution to controlling these prices focuses on the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska's North Slope to the lower 48 states. According to estimates, this area holds 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and possibly 100 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered gas. Until a pipeline is constructed, though, this gas is considered to be "stranded."

The rising prices led Senate Majority Leader Bill First (R.-Tenn.) to call for a joint meeting of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. "At the same time that oil companies are posting record profits, Americans are paying more than ever to fill up their cars and heat their homes," First said. "Whether it is fluctuating gas prices, disparities in gas prices at stations right next to each other, the sharp rise in natural gas costs, or the anticipated crunch for home heating oil, Americans are wondering what has happened to push costs through the roof."

On November 9, chief executive officers from the nation's five largest oil companies appeared at the joint hearing. Some members attacked the executives. Senator Barbara Boxer (D.-Cal.) said that the hearing was "about shared sacrifices in tough times versus oil company greed." Some senators suggested that the Congress should impose a tax on windfall profits, using the revenue of this tax to assist lower income families to pay for their energy bills. Others committee members focused on allegations of price-gouging, including a 24-cent per gallon increase in gas one day after Hurricane Katrina.

The CEOs defended the profits, noting that these companies invest their revenues in the development of new energy resources. According to Lee Raymond, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil, "Our numbers are huge because the scale of our industry is huge." Raymond also argued against the imposition of a windfall tax. "History teaches us that punitive measures hastily crafted in response to short-term rises in prices will have unintended consequences and disincentives to investment." Other executives represented Chevron, Conoco, BP, and Shell.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.) focused his attention on the natural gas problem. "Natural gas prices are a bigger problem for our country," he said. "If gasoline prices had gone up recently as fast as natural gas prices, gasoline would be $6 or $7/gallon. At the moment, there are 50 new chemical plants being built in China and one new chemical plant being built in the United States." Other discussions focused on the construction of the Alaska pipeline.

Although the oil executives said that they favored the construction of the new Alaska pipeline, they noted that the issue was still being negotiated. Moreover, Raymond said that even if a pipeline deal were completed, the pipeline would not be operational for another decade.

The hearing had little or no impact on gas prices. Between April 1 and May 1 in 2006, the average price of a gallon of gasoline increased by about 40 cents. Democrats in late April blamed the policies of President GEORGE W. BUSH for the increase in prices. Senator Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.) said, "The same Bush administration that so tragically bungled the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has now bungled its way to $3-per-gallon gasoline."

Hastert and Frist sent a letter to Bush to advise the president that the administration should take proactive steps to investigate whether price gouging by oil companies had occurred. "Given the severity of the current situation regarding gas prices, we believe that the attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission should devote all necessary resources to expedited review of complaints of price gouging against wholesalers or retailers of gasoline and other distillates," the letter said.


views updated Jun 11 2018

gas / gas/ • n. (pl. gas·es or gas·ses) 1. an airlike fluid substance which expands freely to fill any space available, irrespective of its quantity: hot balls of gas that become stars | poisonous gases. ∎ Physics a substance of this type that cannot be liquefied by the application of pressure alone. Compare with vapor. ∎  a flammable substance of this type used as a fuel. ∎  a gaseous anesthetic such as nitrous oxide, used in dentistry. ∎  gas or vapor used as a poisonous agent to kill or disable an enemy in warfare. ∎  gas generated in the alimentary canal; flatulence. ∎  Mining an explosive mixture of firedamp with air.2. inf. short for gasoline.3. (a gas) inf. a person or thing that is entertaining or amusing: the party would be a gas.• v. (gas·es, gassed, gas·sing) [tr.] 1. attack with or expose to poisonous gas. ∎  kill by exposure to poisonous gas. ∎  [intr.] (of a storage battery or dry cell) give off gas.2. fill the tank of (an engine or motor vehicle) with gasoline: after gassing up the car, he went into the restaurant.3. [intr.] inf. talk, esp. excessively, idly, or boastfully: I thought you'd never stop gassing.PHRASES: run out of gas inf. run out of energy; lose momentum.step on the gas inf. press on the accelerator to make a car go faster.ORIGIN: mid 17th cent.: invented by J. B. van Helmont (1577–1644), Belgian chemist, to denote an occult principle that he believed to exist in all matter; suggested by Greek khaos ‘chaos,’ with Dutch g representing Greek kh.


views updated May 23 2018


Various legal issues arise concerning the use and distribution of gas.


A municipal corporation does not have the duty to supply gas to its population. In the event that a city assumes the performance of such function, it is acting merely as a business corporation.

The charter of a gas company is a franchise granted by the state. The manufacture of distribution of gas for light, fuel, or power is a business of a public character, and, therefore, a gas company is ordinarily considered to be a public or quasi-public corporation or a business affected with a public interest. A state may regulate gas companies for the protection of the public and may delegate its regulatory powers to municipal corporations in which gas companies operate. In a number of states, gas companies are subject to a public service commission or other such agency. The jurisdiction of the commission ordinarily includes the power to establish rates and to set forth rules and regulations affecting the service, operation, management, and conduct of the business.

Consumer Supply

Upon obtaining a franchise to supply gas to a particular geographic area, a gas company is bound to fulfill its obligation; it cannot withdraw its service from an area merely because it is dissatisfied with the rates permitted there. Once the franchise of a company has expired, it may withdraw the service. A court may, in certain

instances, enjoin the discontinuance of service for a reasonable period—to circumvent undue hardship and inconvenience to the residents of the area.

A gas company has the duty to serve all those who are within the franchise area who desire service and subscribe to the reasonable rules that it may set forth. A municipality or corporation supplying gas may make reasonable rules and regulations to secure the payment of bills, such as eliminating service to the consumer. If there is a genuine controversy about the amount owed, a company is not permitted to discontinue service. A gas company may not require the owner or occupant of a building to pay over-due and unpaid bills by a former owner or occupant before it continues service to the building. Some statutes require that gas companies install a meter on the premises, in order to register the consumption of gas by each customer; and where a customer tampers with the meter and uses a significant amount of unmetered gas, the company can discontinue service and refuse to restore it until the customer pays the amount due for the unmetered gas taken.

A gas company that wrongfully refuses to supply a customer with gas is liable for damages. There are also statutory penalties in some states for such wrongful refusal.


A gas company is under the obligation to exercise ordinary care in the construction of its works and the conduct of its business in order to protect life and property.

Gas has a highly dangerous and volatile character and tends to escape. A gas company must, therefore, exercise care to avoid harm to others and is liable for its negligence that results in injury to others by reason of the escape or explosion of gas. It must exercise reasonable care in the inspection of its pipes to ensure that leaks may be discovered promptly; and if leaks or defects in the pipes of the company occur due to faulty construction or maintenance, the company is liable for resulting injuries, even though it did not know about the leak.

In the event that the company has taken due care in the inspection of its pipes and a defect or a break occurs through natural causes or by the act of a third person, the gas company must be given notice of the defect and reasonable time to repair it before liability accrues. A gas company subject to notice that gas is escaping is under an obligation to shut off the gas supply until the necessary repairs have been made.

A gas company has a property right in the mains and pipes and other appliances, and where there is unauthorized interference with, or damage to, this property, the company is entitled to recover damages and an injunction if the circumstances so warrant.


A gas company has a legal obligation to charge reasonable rates. One of the main purposes of the regulation of gas companies is to prescribe fair and reasonable rates for the selling of gas to the public. Rate increases are permitted only following an impartial and complete investigation—with the object of doing justice to the gas company as well as the public. Relief can be sought in the courts if gas rates are unreasonable—to determine whether the rate making body acted beyond the scope of its power or against the weight of the evidence. The courts, however, cannot decide what rates are reasonable, nor can they put those rates into effect.


Public Utilities.


views updated Jun 11 2018

gas State of matter in which molecules are free to move in any direction; a gas spreads by diffusion. Any quantity of gas will occupy its entire container. Because of their low densities, most gases are poor conductors of heat and electricity (although at high voltages a gas may be ionized and become electrically conductive). When cooled, gases become liquids. Some, such as carbon dioxide, can be liquefied by pressure alone. All gases follow certain laws, such as Avogadro's law, Boyle's law, Charles' law, Graham's law, and the ideal gas laws. All involve volume and pressure, with Graham's law particularly concerned with diffusion. See also plasma; solid


views updated May 18 2018

gas1 (hist.) occult principle supposed to be present in all bodies XVII; any completely elastic fluid XVIII. — Du. gas ( J. B. van Helmont, 1577–1644), based on Gr. kháos CHAOS.
Hence gas vb. treat, poison, etc., with gas; (colloq.) talk aimlessly. XIX.


views updated May 18 2018

Gas Woof! 1981 (R)

This dog has tycoon Hayden buying up all the gas stations in town to create a crisis that will make him richer. Everyone in the cast wastes their time, especially Sutherland as a hip DJ reporting on the gas shortage. 94m/C VHS . CA Donald Sutherland, Susan Anspach, Sterling Hayden, Peter Aykroyd, Howie Mandel, Helen Shaver; D: Les Rose; W: Dick Wolf.


views updated May 14 2018

gas (gas) n. a fluid whose physical state is such that the forces of attraction between its constituent atoms and molecules are very weak. It therefore has no definite shape or volume. laughing g. see nitrous oxide.


views updated May 23 2018

gas all gas and gaiters a satisfactory state of affairs; originally recorded in Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby (1839) ‘All is gas and gaiters.’
gas laws the physical laws that describe the properties of gases, including Boyle's and Charles's laws.