A picture of a post card shows French soldiers wearing basic gas masks during World War I.
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On April 22, 1915, a greenish fog drifted over the battlefield north of Ypres in Belgium, choking to death some 5,000 French soldiers and heralding a new type of terror on the Western Front. World War I saw the first widespread combat use of modern chemical weapons, starting with the 168 tons of chlorine that was released by the Germans over the trenches near Ypres.Overall an estimated 90,000 people were killed by gas attacks and a further 1.2 million injured, sometimes when the poisonous clouds released by artillery shells drifted back into an attacker's lines.But despite the relatively small number of deaths compared with the 9.7 million soldiers killed in total during the war, the fear and suffering caused by chemical arms became symbols of a harrowing new era in modern warfare.After the war ended, officials quickly pushed to outlaw chemical weapons in war, signing the Geneva protocol in 1925, which nonetheless had failed to set up a system for monitoring or punishing their use.
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