Chemical (VX) terrorist threat: public knowledge, attitudes, and responses.

J. Neil Henderson, L. Carson Henderson, Gary E. Raskob, Daniel T. Boatright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This article reports the results of a study of people's perceptions and reactions to a hypothetical terrorist attack involving a chemical agent (specifically, the nerve agent VX). Thirteen focus groups composed of 8 to 12 participants each were conducted using trained moderators. To achieve a broad representation of perspectives, the groups were conducted in several regions and included urban and rural locations. In addition, a variety of population groups, such as African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Asians, and people with English as a second language, were included in the study. Findings demonstrated fear, fatalism, and unfulfilled information needs related to the threat agent. To better prepare the public for VX threats or threats from other highly toxic chemical agents, it will be important to emphasize that VX exposure can be avoided or reduced, that VX effects can be treated, and that VX can be survived if appropriate protective measures are taken. Related findings from the focus groups are that participants preferred television, radio, and the Emergency Alert System for emergency messages and that people prefer to hear information about a chemical attack from a well-known, well-respected public figure or from a content expert on chemical attacks, protective actions, and health. In addition, local television meteorologists were identified as a category of trusted conveyers of important information in relation to chemical terrorist attacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-228
Number of pages5
JournalBiosecurity and bioterrorism : biodefense strategy, practice, and science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004


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