Sarin is an extremely volatile nerve agent because of its ability to change from liquid to gas.
If it evaporates into a gas, it can spread into the environment.
Sarin’s designation by NATO is GB.
People are exposed to sarin through skin contact, eye contact or by breathing it in. Sarin can also be mixed with water or food.
Sarin dissipates quickly, presenting an immediate but short-lived threat.
Sarin’s main ingredient is methyl phosphonyl difluoride.
Mild or moderately exposed people usually recover completely. Severely exposed people are not likely to survive.
Symptoms of mild to moderate exposure include (from the CDC)
Small, pinpoint pupils
Drooling and excessive sweating
Nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain
Slow or fast heart rate
Symptoms of severe exposure include
Loss of Consciousness
Respiratory failure possibly leading to death
Leave the area of contamination as quickly as possible. Seek fresh air if exposure occurs indoors. If exposure is outdoors, head to higher ground as sarin is heavier than air and sinks.
Remove contaminated clothing, flush eyes with water, and wash skin with soap and water.
If ingested, do not induce vomiting or flush with fluids.
Medical care should be sought immediately. Antidotes are available in many hospitals.
1938 – Sarin is developed in Germany as a pesticide.
April-May 1967 – The US military secretly tests sarin in the Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve on the island of Hawaii. The testers detonate sarin-filled 155mm artillery shells to study how the nerve agent disperses in a tropical jungle. The Pentagon confirms the “Red Oak” program in November 2002.
March 16, 1988 – The Iraqi air force attacks the northern Iraq town of Halabja with poison gases that were thought to include sarin, VX and other deadly compounds. Reports indicate that 5,000 people died in the attack. Countless others suffer eyesight loss, respiratory ailments and cancers.
March 20, 1995 – The Aum Supreme Truth cult, now known as Aleph, places plastic bags of sarin on trains that converge in the Tokyo government district during rush hour. Thirteen people die and more than 5,000 become ill.
May 17, 2004 – A coalition convoy in Baghdad finds sarin gas in an artillery round that had been rigged as an improvised explosive device. The IED detonates as officials attempt to defuse it. Two members of the explosive ordinance team suffer minor exposure.
June 15, 2012 – Katsuya Takahashi, 54, the last fugitive suspect in the 1995 sarin attacks on the Tokyo subway, is captured by Japanese police, ending a 17-year manhunt.