Sulfur mustard, commonly known as mustard gas, is the prototypical substance of the sulfur-based family of cytotoxic and vesicant chemical warfare agents known as the sulfur mustards, which can form large blisters on exposed skin and in the lungs. They have a long history of use as a blister-agent in warfare and along with organoarsenic compounds are the most well-studied such agents. Related chemical compounds with similar chemical structure and similar properties form a class of compounds known collectively as sulfur mustards or mustard agents. Pure sulfur mustards are colorless, viscous liquids at room temperature. When used in impure form, such as warfare agents, they are usually yellow-brown and have an odor resembling mustard plants, garlic, or horseradish, hence the name. The common name of “mustard gas” is considered inaccurate because the sulfur mustard is not actually vaporized, but dispersed as a fine mist of liquid droplets. Sulfur mustard was originally assigned the name LOST, after the scientists Wilhelm Lommel and Wilhelm Steinkopf, who developed a method of large-scale production for the Imperial German Army in 1916.
Mustard agents are regulated under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Three classes of chemicals are monitored under this Convention, with sulfur and nitrogen mustard grouped in Schedule 1, as substances with no use other than in chemical warfare. Mustard agents could be deployed by means of artillery shells, aerial bombs, rockets, or by spraying from warplanes or other aircraft.
Sulfur mustard can be readily decontaminated through reaction with chloramine-T.