News / Middle East

Facts You Should Know about the Chemical Weapon Sarin

Girls who survived from what activists say is a gas attack rest inside a mosque in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus,  Aug. 21, 2013.
Girls who survived from what activists say is a gas attack rest inside a mosque in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, Aug. 21, 2013.
Cecily Hilleary
The World Health Organization has released new interim guidelines for health care workers treating patients who may have been exposed to chemical weapons.
The document includes questions to help doctors determine what agent may have been used and outlines how patients should be decontaminated and treated.  The document is does not specifically name Syria or refer to particular agents—but WHO admits that it “rushed” to publish the guidelines in response to reports that chemical weapons -- in particular nerve agents -- have been used in Syria.

What chemical weapons does Syria possess?

How Sarin Affects the BodyHow Sarin Affects the Body
x
How Sarin Affects the Body
How Sarin Affects the Body
​It is believed that Syria is able to develop and produce the blistering agent, mustard gas, as well as the nerve gas sarin--and possibly also VX nerve agent.  Nerve agents are called that because they attack the human nervous system.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says it has received credible reports from Syrian doctors who say that on August 21, they received approximately 3,600 patients showing “neurotoxic” symptoms—that is, signs that poison had affected the person’s nervous system.  Three hundred fifty-five of those patients reportedly died. 

MSF says it cannot confirm the cause of the symptoms.  However, experts now believe the likely cause was the deadly neurotoxin sarin.

Sarin

​Sarin is a clear, colorless and tasteless liquid that has no odor. It can evaporate into a gas and spread into the environment.  Because it evaporates quickly, the threat is immediate — but not long-lived.

How sick a person becomes after being exposed to sarin depends on how much he or she is exposed to, how long and how the gas is delivered. Symptoms usually appear within a few seconds of exposure to sarin vapor and a few minutes to 18 hours after exposure to liquid sarin.

Symptoms may include:  “pinpoint” pupils and blurred vision; difficulty breathing; muscle twitching; excess saliva and other secretions; impaired judgment, seizures and unconsciousness.   

Treatment

If doctors determine that someone has been exposed to nerve agents, they first decontaminate the patient, cleaning the skin of any dry debris or powder, then rinse and wash the affected areas thoroughly, making sure that any waste or water used during the process is contained, so as to avoid further contamination.

Only after the patient is decontaminated do doctors begin treatment, usually injections of Atropine.  

Long-term effects

Suspected chemical weapon attack sites in DamascusSuspected chemical weapon attack sites in Damascus
x
Suspected chemical weapon attack sites in Damascus
Suspected chemical weapon attack sites in Damascus
Exposure to large doses of sarin can cause death.

People who have been exposed to small levels of sarin usually recover completely, but fatigue, irritability, nervousness and memory problems could last for weeks.

Some studies have suggested that severe sarin poisoning can cause long-term central nervous system symptoms, such as changes in brain activity. Fatigue, irritability, nervousness and memory problems may last up to six weeks after recovery from exposure to sarin. 

Sarin’s impact on fertility is not known.  Researchers say it is not likely to cause cancer.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Hamik C Gregroy from: Kings Beach, CA USA
August 28, 2013 8:33 AM
If I understand correctly, Sarin gas is derived from concentrated castor oil and was invented by IG Farben of Nazi Germany as a pesticide in 1938. Orders were given to weaponize the deadly gas but it was never used against the Allies.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid