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Syria's Sarin, Chemical Weapons: FAQ

What Is VX?

VX, invented by a British chemist in the early 1950s, is a nerve gas even more deadly than sarin. Like sarin, it is tasteless and odorless. Unlike sarin, it is thick and oily. It evaporates only as quickly as motor oil and thus can remain in the environment for months.

What Are the Symptoms of Sarin and VX Poisoning?

The first signs of poisoning with sarin or VX are a runny nose and pinpoint pupils. Those who do not get an immediately lethal dose will have trouble breathing, fluid in the lungs, sweating, and muscle twitching.

There are nervous system effects, such as fatigue, irritability, nervousness, and impaired memory. Survivors may have these symptoms six weeks after recovery from other symptoms.

What Is the Treatment for Sarin and VX Poisoning?

There are antidotes for nerve gas poisoning with sarin or VX: atropine and pralidoxime chloride. These antidotes must be injected very soon after poisoning occurs.

People exposed to sarin or VX can protect themselves by quickly moving to an area where there is fresh air. Both sarin and VX are heavier than air and settle in low-lying areas. So if outdoors, a person should move immediately to the highest ground possible. If sarin is released within a building, leave the building immediately.

After any sarin or VX exposure, it's important to remove all clothing and wash all skin areas with soap and water. Clothing that must be pulled over the head should be cut off. All clothing should be double bagged in plastic bags and left for professional removal.

Treat eye exposure -- symptoms are burning or blurred vision -- by flushing with fresh water for 10 to 15 minutes.

If sarin or VX is swallowed, do not induce vomiting, and do not give fluids to drink.

In all cases of exposure to nerve gas, seek immediate emergency medical care.


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