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Some Details About Nerve Agent Sarin

May 17, 2004

Here are some details about the nerve agent, sarin:

WHAT IT IS: Originally developed in Germany in 1938 as a pesticide, sarin is a clear, colorless and tasteless liquid that can evaporate into an odorless vapor. It is also known as GB.

HOW PEOPLE ARE EXPOSED: Once sarin is released into the air, people can be exposed through skin or eye contact, or breathing air that contains the chemical. It can also be used to poison water or food.

WHAT IT DOES: In large enough doses, sarin causes convulsions, paralysis, loss of consciousness and potentially fatal respiratory failure. In smaller doses, people usually recover completely. Symptoms include runny nose and watery eyes, eye pain and blurred vision, drooling, rapid breathing and drowsiness.

ANTIDOTE: The antidote for a lethal amount is a shot that includes the drug atropine, which must be injected into the thigh within minutes.

PRIOR KNOWN USE: The Aum Shinrikyo cult used sarin in attacks on in the Tokyo subway system in 1995 that killed 12 people and sickened thousands.

PRIOR LINK TO IRAQ: Iraq first told U.N. inspectors it had made 812 tons of sarin, then said it had made 790 tons. Iraq also produced binary weapons: bombs carrying two separate chemicals that when combined in an explosion, produce sarin.

Iraq acknowledged making thousands of rockets, artillery shells and bombs containing sarin. It used the chemical during its war with Iran in the 1980s and some believe it was used against Kurdish Iraqi civilians.


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