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Syria war: Sarin gas – 500 times deadlier than cyanide

By Ajith Vijay Kumar | Last Updated: Monday, September 2, 2013 - 16:36

Zee Media Bureau/Ajith Vijay Kumar

With US Secretary of State John Kerry confirming that the use of sarin gas lead to death of hundreds in Syria, world’s focus is once again on the use of chemical weapons in war.

What is sarin gas?

Belonging to the class of organophosphorus, sarin gas was first developed by Nazi Germany in 1938 as a chemical weapon.

Also known as GB, sarin is one of world’s most dangerous chemical warfare agents. It is said to be 500 times as toxic as cyanide and can cause death with a few minutes after it is inhaled as gas or absorbed through skin.

Sarin is an extremely potent nerve agent that disrupts the nervous system. On exposure, it leads to convulsions, twitching, leading to brain getting shut followed by asphyxiation as the muscles around the lungs get paralyzed.

As little as one drop of sarin is enough to kill an average person if he or she`s not given an antidote immediately.

Exposure to sarin gas

When Sarin, which has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction, is released into the air, people become vulnerable to exposure by inhaling the gas or through contact with the skin.

What makes it deadlier is that sarin is an odourless gas. Also, the clothing of an exposed person can also release the gas, which can lead to the exposure of others.

Prior to its use in Syria, sarin was used during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. It was also used in two terrorist attacks in Japan in 1994 and 1995.

Although the Geneva Protocol of 1925 has banned the use of chemical weapons, there possession was not curbed until the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) which called for the destruction of chemical weapons.

As many as 188 states-parties have signed the treaty; Syria and North Korea are among the non-signatories.

First Published: Monday, September 2, 2013 - 12:51

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