Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Letter S: The Choose Your Poison #AtoZChallenge

Sarin is a man-made chemical classified as a nerve agent. (Nerve agents are the most toxic and fast acting of chemical warfare agents.)  It was originally developed in Germany in 1938 as a pesticide (along with several other deadly poisons). It was added to the German arsenal but never used during the war.

Sarin is a clear, colorless, odorless and tasteless liquid that can also evaporate into a deadly gas. The gas is heavier than air and will collect in low lying places, but on the plus side it evaporates so quickly that it poses a short-term risk unless it is released in a confined area.

Sarin is extremely toxic; a fraction of an ounce (1 to 10 mL) on the skin can be fatal, and death can occur within minutes.  Exposure can be via direct contact, inhalation, contaminated water, or clothing worn by someone else.  Antidotes (which must be administered ASAP) are Atropine and pralidoxime chloride (2-PAM Cl) along with Diazepam if seizure activity is present.

Emergency response instructions also include the following information:
  • Under acid conditions, sarin hydrolyzes to form hydrofluoric acid (HF). See the emergency response card for hydrofluoric acid.
  • Sarin decomposes tin, magnesium, cadmium-plated steel, and aluminum.
  • Contact with metals may evolve flammable hydrogen gas.                -  (CDC)
Sarin may have been used twice in 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war: in the Kurd city of Halabja (approximately 5,000 people may have died), and during the second battle for al-Faw.

In 1994 it was used in the Matsumoto incident when the Japanese religious sect Aum Shinrikyo released an impure form of sarin in several open spaces. Eight people died. 

On March 20, 1995, Sarin grabbed headlines again due to the Tokyo subway sarin attack by the religious group  Aum Shinrikyo. Thirteen people died and thousands were transported to hospitals for breathing and vision problems.

In 2013 Sarin was used in Ghouta during the civil war in Syria; estimates of deaths range from 300 to over 1000.


  1. Now that's a scary chemical. If it decomposes metals, you know it's extremely toxic.

  2. At least it evaporates quickly if there's enough air flow. What an intriguing theme@ Thanks for stopping by and visiting my blog. I do try to reciprocate comments whenever possible.
    Maui Jungalow

  3. Now that's nasty stuff. Thanks but no thanks, Nazi Germany.

  4. A - Z of poisons! I wish I'd come by this blog earlier in the challenge. I'll have to go back and look at all the other ones now. Very interesting. Thanks.


  5. That's absolutely terrifying. Terrifying.

    Good luck with the A to Z Challenge!
    A to Z Co-Host S. L. Hennessy

  6. Sarin sounds like deadly stuff. Make that 'is deadly stuff.'
    You should compile this information in a book and label it for writers.

  7. Hello greetings and good wishes.

    I am very impressed you are taking part in AtoZ challenge. I know this is a real challenge and will tax your thinking power and energy to the maximum limit.

    A chemical developed as a pesticide finally becomes a deadly weapon in the hands of warmongers. So many lives have been lost due to the use of this deadly Sarin. The world as such is stock piled with large quantities of weapons of mass destruction and these weapons in the hands of terrorists or crazy leaders can obliterate a large number of humans from the face of the earth.

    Very interesting and frightening information on Sarin.

    Best wishes

  8. Alex- yes, I knew it was poisonous but not corrosive as well.
    Courtney - thanks, I thought long and hard this year to come up with an interesting (I hope) theme!

    Nick- Nazi Germany came up with some extremely nasty chemicals. Thank goodness they didn't get a chance to use them all. (Sadly, at least 2 were used in the concentration camps.)

    Nicky - glad you're enjoying the posts! I'm in the same situation; due to lack of time, I'll have to re-visit many blogs over the summer to catch up on my reading!

    S.L. - terrifying indeed, especially since many countries have stockpiles of the stuff and some have no compunction about using it.

    J.L. - I thought seriously about gathering these posts together for a book, but time is against me right now. I would want to be meticulous about the research involved. Maybe it will be a retirement project. In the meantime, I hope that these challenge posts will provide a free research site for writers.

    Joseph - thank you, the challenge is a lot of work but rewarding! The more I researched poisons, the more I realized that we are surrounded with toxic substances that, as you say, could wipe out large swaths of humanity. A terrifying thought.

    Emilia - yep, very scary.

    Cathrina - yes. Thank you for stopping by!

  9. This type of stuff scares me more than because they are man made to destroy.