It’s been in the news lately, so let’s talk about sarin.

Sarin, or GB, is a very nasty nerve agent. I can’t speak for anyone else, but it’s one of the first chemical weapons I’d ever heard of; well before I even thought about joining the Navy, sarin was the first thing that came to mind whenever people talked about chemical weapons or gas attacks. I’m not going to talk about Syria since I’m not any kind of expert on the situation, but it’s been all over the news and a quick Google search will give you a rundown. No, today we’re talking the nitty gritty of what sarin is and what it does. Just so happens this hit the news while I was in a DC school with a huge emphasis on CBR.

Sarin was discovered in 1938 in a German lab during an attempt to create a stronger pesticide. Of the four G-series nerve agents synthesized in Germany between 1936 and 1949, sarin is the most toxic. It’s potential as a weapon was recognized very early on, though production didn’t take off in time for it to be a real option during WWII. The US and USSR began producing GB in the 1950s. UN Resolution 687 classifies sarin as a weapon of mass destruction, and its production and stockpiling was outlawed in 1993. Sarin is odorless and colorless.

Like other nerve agents, sarin blocks the enzyme cholinesterase. Nerve impulses pass through synapses using the enzyme acetylcholine; cholinesterase is necessary to break down the acetylcholine in the synapses to interrupt nerve impulses and allow muscles and organs to relax. Without cholinesterase, the entire body will clench and be unable to relax. Death is caused by respiratory failure. Though time of death will depend on level of exposure, it can occur within minutes.

Sarin exposure is treated with atropine and pralidoxime (2PAM), but they must be administered quickly. The military also uses an autoinjector of CANA, which is really just diazepam, for buddy aid if the atropine and pralidoxime fail; though diazepam is an anticonvulsant, it probably won’t succeed where the other two failed. It’s purpose is more to decrease suffering after someone receives a lethal dose of a nerve agent.

If you like goats, you should probably stop here. The following video is rather graphic. It doesn’t show blood and guts, but it does show a pigeon and a goat exposed to a lethal dose of GB during an artillery test. The muscle tremors and seizures are caused by the blockage of cholinesterase.