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Sarin: The Deadly Killer

Benjamin Dunn |
August 30, 2013 | 2:50 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Imagine every nerve, muscles and gland in your body under constant stimulation.

Five hundred times deadlier than cyanide, Sarin, also known as GB, is considered one of the deadliest nerve agents, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The United Nations classifies it as a weapon of mass destruction under its Resolution 687.

Sarin, the neurotoxin allegedly used by the government against civilians in Syria, attacks the nervous system by inhibiting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, which stops the nerves in muscles from turning off. Death by asphyxia is likely because muscles used for breathing would not work.

MORE: John Kerry Confirms Syria Used Chemical Weapons

The effects of sarin can be separated into two categories: effects on the parasympathetic (involuntary) nervous system and those on the voluntary muscular system. 

Parasympathetic System

The glands in people's bodies will continuously release substances since a sarin attack will force muscles to remain stimulated. As a result, individuals affected by sarin will defecate or urinate themselves, sweat, cry and get runny noses. Their pupils will constrict, and vision will become blurry. However, the most serious effect is that the bronchus — the airways into lungs — will constrict, making it difficult to breathe. 

Voluntary Muscular System

Voluntary movement, such as walking or writing, is also severely impacted. When these muscles receive constant stimulation, they will continue the same action over and over again. Eventually, convulsions and paralysis will occur. Similarly, the respiratory system will shut down since muscles like the lungs and diaphragm will be paralyzed.

In combination with bronchial constriction, the failure of the respiratory system is what kills individuals exposed to sarin.


Read more Neon Tommy coverage of Syria here

Reach Staff Reporter Benjamin Dunn here.



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