Alas, the nerve agent sarin
is in the news these days. The Nazis invented it in 1938, and it was named after the team who discovered it: Schrader, Ambros, Ritter and van der Linde. It was just one of several such chemicals developed by the Nazis, and they made at most 10 ten tons of it... which is a lot, but nothing compared to the roughly 20,000 tons
of another nerve agent, called tabun
The Nazis never got around to using sarin on Allied troops. In the 1950s, NATO started making it. Ambrose, who had been convicted as a war criminal, served only half his sentence: in 1951 he was released in order to help the US Army develop its own chemical weapons program.
In 1953, a 20-year-old engineer named Ronald Maddison died during human testing of sarin at a chemical warfare testing facility in England.
In 1988, Saddam Hussein killed 5,000 Kurds with sarin, and used it four times in his war with Iran. In 1993 it was banned by the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention. In 1994 and 1995, the Japanese religious sect Aum Shinrikyo killed 21 people with it, and injured hundreds more, in two separate incidents. And on August 21 of this year, hundreds or perhaps thousands of people were killed with sarin in Syria.
What is this horrible substance, and how does it work?
The black balls in this picture are carbon atoms. The white ones are hydrogen. The two red ones are oxygen, the orange one is phosphorus, and the yellow-green one is fluorine.
Sarin gets into your synapses and prevents acetylcholinesterase from getting rid of acetylcholine... so your nerves keep sending the same signal
. 70 milligrams per cubic meter of air can kill you in a minute. First you get a runny nose, tightness in the chest, and constriction of the pupils. Then come vomiting and uncontollable defecation and urination. Then you twitch and jerk. Then you go into a coma and suffocate in a series of convulsive spasms.
If someone gives you atropine and pralidoxime really quickly
, you might avoid this fate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarinhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerve_agenthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Ghouta_attacks #chemistry