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Commonly Known Chemical Weapons Agents

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Phosgene

  • Description. When it is first dispersed, phosgene looks like a fog, but it becomes colorless as it spreads, although it doesn't last long. It can smell like newly mown hay but with a poisonous, suffocating odor.
  • Effects. As a choking agent, phosgene causes fluid buildup in the lungs -- but not until as many as 48 hours after exposure. Inhalation can lead to irreversible lung damage like emphysema and fibrosis (scarring). Phosgene causes severe damage to nose and throat, and can burn skin and eyes. Victims should be given oxygen and have their eyes flushed with water or saline.

Sarin

  • Description. Sarin is a nerve agent that is clear, colorless, tasteless, and odorless. It's a highly volatile chemical and is mainly an inhalation threat.
  • Effects. Symptoms of sarin poisoning include runny nose, tightness of chest, dimmed vision, breathing difficulty, drooling, excessive sweating, nausea and vomiting, involuntary bowel movement and urination, involuntary muscle movements, headache, confusion, and drowsiness. If untreated, victims stop breathing and die. Antidotes are atropine and pralidoxmine. Eyes and skin should be flushed thoroughly if exposed.

Soman

  • Description. Soman is a nerve agent that is clear, colorless and tasteless, and can have a slight camphor odor or none at all. It can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested orally. Nerve agents act very quickly in vapor form; longer in liquid form.
  • Effects. Symptoms include runny nose, tightness of chest, dimmed vision, breathing difficulty, drooling, excessive sweating, nausea and vomiting, involuntary defecation and urination, involuntary muscle movements, headache, confusion, and drowsiness. If untreated, victims stop breathing and die. Antidotes are atropine, pralidoxmine, and pyridostigmine. Eyes and skin should be flushed thoroughly if exposed.

Tabun

  • Description. Tabun is a nerve agent that is clear, colorless, tasteless, and can have a slight fruity odor or none at all. It can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested. Nerve agents act very quickly in vapor form; longer in liquid form.
  • Effects. Symptoms include runny nose, tightness of chest, dimmed vision, breathing difficulty, drooling, excessive sweating, nausea and vomiting, involuntary bowel movement and urination, involuntary muscle movements, headache, confusion, and drowsiness. If untreated, victims stop breathing and die. Antidotes are atropine and pralidoxmine chloride. Eyes and skin should be flushed thoroughly if exposed.

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