Thursday, September 12, 2013

What is sarin?

 chemical called sarin made international news lately when it was discovered to be what killed around a thousand people in Ghouta, Syria, which is in the middle of a civil war. Concern about the toxic chemical immediately spread globally, even here in the Bicol, where some have relatives who work in the Western Asian nation.


The Emergency Response Safety and Health Database describes sarin as a colorless, odourless nerve agent. Chemically, sarin gas is known as (CH3)2CHO]CH3P(O)F. Originally, it was created as a pesticide by German scientists. The name was taken from its makers, Schrader, Ambros, RĂ¼diger and Van der Linde.

Eventually, sarin’s potential for use in warfare was discovered, and the chemical substance was outlawed. Despite the prohibitions against the use of sarin, the chemical has been used in wars and terrorism. Some of these are the Iran-Iraq war, the Halabja Massacre, and the Tokyo Metro terrorist attack.


Sarin affects the nervous system by inhibiting an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. Acetylcholine is responsible for breaking down another chemical called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is used by the body to contract muscles and regulate internal organs. When acetylcholinesterase is inhibited by sarin, acetylcholine accumulates in the body such that overstimulation occurs. The body has difficulty controlling its muscles and secretions. Some symptoms include the loss of control of the bowels and the bladder, drooling, crying, and vomiting. Muscle jerking and twitching is common because of the loss of control of muscles. Difficulty in breathing due to the inability to function of the lung muscles and diaphragm has also been documented.

The severity of the effects depends on how small or large the dose of sarin was during the individual’s exposure to the chemical. However, even small doses of sarin cause permanent damage. Larger doses, meanwhile, can kill in a matter of seconds.


There are several drugs used to treat the effects of sarin. However, these drugs are unable to reverse all the effects.

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