The term tic chemical refers to a toxic industrial chemical (TIC) that can be used to create an immediate threat to human health and safety. TICs can be present in the air, liquid or solid form and may cause a variety of adverse impacts to people’s health and well-being. Examples of TICs include carcinogens, reproductive hazards, and chemicals that affect the lungs and blood. Terrorists are also known to use TICs for nefarious purposes.
The most common ways in which CWAs/TICs are absorbed into the body are inhalation, ingestion, and absorption through the skin. Inhalation of TICs through fumes, vapors or aerosols is the fastest route to exposure and typically results in immediate symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing or burning of the eyes, nose or throat. Ingestion or absorption of TICs typically results in nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. If ingested in large enough quantities, TICs can result in life-threatening effects or even death.
If inhaled, TICs enter the body through the lungs where they can cause irreversible damage to tissues. Generally, the damage is attributed to oxidative stress that results from the direct production of reactive oxygen species and/or reactive nitrogen species within the target cells or tissues. These agents can easily disrupt cellular signaling pathways that lead to cell or tissue death, including apoptosis and necrosis. This damage is often exacerbated by the direct interaction of TICs with cellular antioxidant defenses. However, the underlying mechanism of action of many TICs is not fully understood. Consequently, efforts to mitigate the damaging effects of TICs/CWAs by utilizing antioxidants have met with mixed success.