ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is Sarin? - Chemical Warfare

Updated on July 7, 2018
Diana Grant profile image

I am interested in the world around me, human rights, current affairs, psychology, law, justice, and philosophical and ethical questions

Many People Have Heard of the Poison Sarin, But Don't Know What it is

The very notion of a poisonous gas is enough to send fear and terror through whole communities. The effects of Sarin are lethal, and it is banned for use in many countries and its use is considered to be a war crime.

Chemical Weapons Attack in Helabja, Iraq - 1988
Chemical Weapons Attack in Helabja, Iraq - 1988 | Source

Chemical Components

Sarin is an odourless, tasteless and colourless liquid, made from a combination of four chemical compounds.

Similar to organophosphate pesticides, the man-made chemical Sarin was discovered to be a toxic nerve agent in Germany in 1938 whilst scientists were working on making stronger and more effective pesticides.

The History of Sarin

In 1939 the formula was taken up by the German chemical warfare department. Germany built plants to produce Sarin during World War II, but did not use it against the Allies.

Sarin is known as GB, one of the G-series of volatile liquid nerve agents

In the 1950’s, sarin was produced by the USA and USSR for military purposes and experiments were conducted in the UK.

Syria started stockpiling chemical weapons in the early 1980’s, after they were defeated in various wars against Israel and Israel’s development of nuclear weapons. Both sides in the current Syrian civil war have accused each other of using sarin gas.

In 1988 the Kurdish city of Halabja in Northern Iraq was bombed with chemical bombs including Sarin, killing about 5,000 people in the poison gas attack. It may also have been used in the war between Iran and Iraq.

In 1993, 162 members of The United Nations signed the UN Chemical Weapons Convention banning production of certain chemical weapons, one of which was Sarin, specifying the total destruction of certain stockpiled chemical weapons by April 2007. Sarin was classified as a weapon of mass destruction, because of its high potency as a nerve agent.

In 1993 and 1994 there were two incidents in Japan where sarin was released, and in the first attack, eight people were killed and hundreds injured. After the Tokyo Metro attack, twelve commuters died and over five thousand were injured.

Sarin is difficult to trace because it evaporates and disperses quickly but remnants are left in the place where it is used. Investigators would need to obtain evidence from hair, blood, urine, tissue or soil samples, and to obtain these, they would need to have access to the suspect area and victims.

Effect of Sarin:

Sarin interferes with the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which switches off glands and muscles. When the switch is blocked, the muscles are over-stimulated, which may cause death from asphyxiation when the muscles used for breathing malfunction. Symptoms from contact with sarin vapour are triggered immediately, whereas contact with liquid sarin may produce symptoms within a few minutes and up to eighteen hours.

With a low dose, symptoms are watering eyes, runny nose, drooling, excessive sweating, vomiting and nausea. With a high dose, there may be convulsions, loss of consciousness, paralysis, or respiratory failure followed by death.

Sarin is highly volatile and may be absorbed through the skin. If clothing has come into contact with sarin, it may release sufficient poison to harm other people, and, without immediate and correct treatment, they too could suffer permanent neurological damage.

Death can follow amost immediately if a lethal dose of sarin is ingested, unless a chemical antidote is administered. Sarin is far more toxic than cyanide, and anyone administering treatment should wear protective clothing.


More about Chemical Warfare from Amazon: A depressing but very informative account of the history of nerve gas

Sarin on YouTube

This is a news video by al Jazeera

General Advice for Sarin Poisoning:

In the event of sarin poisoning, it is important to deliver the victim to a hospital which has knowledge and the appropriate antidote, as not every hospital has these.

Anything which may be contaminated with sarin should be removed, using rubber gloves, and placed in a sealed bag for proper disposal. Clothing should not be lifted over the victim’s head, as this could cause further gas inhalation, and, if necessary, should be cut away.

The person should be rinsed all over, and washed with soap to get rid of the sarin residue, which is quite likely to poison care givers.

The best antidotes to Sarin poisoning are pralidoxime and antropine, which should be given as soon as possible if they are to be effective.

Take This Poll About Sarin:

Did you know much about Sarin before reading this article?

See results

What do you think about the use of sarin in chemical warfare?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • srsddn profile image

      srsddn 

      16 months ago from Dehra Dun, India

      Diana, I hope the resolutions of 1993 Convention are followed in letter and spirit. In the present scenario, Sarin falling into wrong hands could be disastrous in view of its capacity to annihilate. Thanks for enlightening the Hubbers about this destructive chemical.

    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      4 years ago from Canada

      Yikes this really is frightening. The world is such a scary place today.

    • lifelovemystery profile image

      Michelle Orelup 

      5 years ago from Houston, TX

      That is some really nasty stuff. War is hell.

    • Ranzi profile image

      Cut The Bullshit 

      5 years ago from All Over

      Very educational hub. It's sad that this chemical can so easily destroy human lives. Quite disturbing what's happening in the world.

      Thanks for sharing

    • lisa42 profile image

      lisa42 

      5 years ago from Sacramento

      I remember the Tokyo Metro attacks because I was commuting by train at that point. It's scary that dangerous people can get access to such deadly substances.

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      5 years ago from London

      Scientific Research is neutral, but can be put to very harmful use, as when the atom was split, and then used for atomic bombs. Warfare has always been vicious and cruel, but seems to have got a whole lot worse in the last 75 years or so.

      Thanks for pointing out my repeat paragraph - that's what happens when I work until I'm too tired to spot the obvious, after midnight.

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      5 years ago from London

      The trouble is that not every country signs up to these Conventions. And the question is: have you committed a war crime if you didn't agree to avoid using chemical warfare in the first place? In my opinion, yes, a crime has been committed.

      But I am not sure whether this is so under International Law. Does anyone know the answer to this?

    • Diana Grant profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      5 years ago from London

      Yes, the reason I wrote this was because I, too, didn't know what sarin was, and, having looked it up, I always like to share my knowledge.

    • profile image

      calculus-geometry 

      5 years ago

      Interesting! I didn't know it was discovered by way of pesticides. It seems like a lot of drugs/chemicals that are prescribed/used for one main purpose were discovered while scientists were investigating a completely different use. (BTW, you have a repeated block of text you might want to edit out.)

    • profile image

      mbuggieh 

      5 years ago

      I think the use of sarin gas AND any form of chemical warfare is entirely criminal.

      And remember, the production and stockpiling of sarin was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      For whatever reason I was not aware of what sarin was...thank you for the education. What do I think of it in chemical warfare? I'm against all chemical warfare; thus I'm against sarin. :)

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)