Updated April 13, 2018
By Military1 Staff
President Trump’s authorization for airstrikes against Syria came after it was determined that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used sarin gas, a banned nerve agent against civilians, including children.
Sarin was discovered in 1938 by German scientists while trying to develop stronger pesticides, and after being used sporadically throughout history, was included as part of the 1993 United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention which banned the production and stockpiling of certain chemical weapons.
Despite the fact that all sarin stockpiles were supposed to be destroyed by 1997, only 89 percent of the calculated amounts worldwide had been effectively destroyed by 2015.
It turns out, it was banned for good reason.
Sarin is calculated to be:
81 times more lethal that cyanide
43 times more lethal than Phosgene, which killed 85,000 people during World War I
28 times more lethal than mustard gas
543 times more lethal than chlorine gas, which was used during World War I and by ISIS in 2014
The Center for Disease Control describes the reaction of the human body to sarin as “preventing the proper operation of an enzyme that acts as the body’s ‘off switch’ for glands and muscles.” A victim of sarin exposure can no longer regulate their body’s response, which begins working in overdrive after a lack of response by the nervous system.
A single drop of sarin on the skin will cause the area to sweat and the muscles underneath to twitch. Even inhaling a small amount of sarin vapor will cause symptoms to appear, such as:
- Small, pinpoint pupils
- Eye pain
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid breathing
- Increased urination
In larger amounts, like what was used in Syria, victims experience:
- Respiratory failure leading to death
In severe cases, victims may succumb to death within one to 10 minutes after being exposed to the nerve agent.
Since sarin was banned in 1997, it has been used a handful of times as a chemical weapon in war, most notably in two Japanese terrorist attacks in the mid-90s, and three times during conflicts in the Middle East.
In 2004, Iraqi insurgents detonated a shell containing chemicals that were meant to create sarin gas in the air. Two U.S. soldiers were treated for mild symptoms of sarin exposure.
In 2013, sarin was used during the Syrian Civil War, killing hundreds of civilians. It was a similar attack to the one perpetrated in the country this week.