-Sarin is a man-made chemical warfare agent classified
as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and
rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar
to certain kinds of insecticides called organophosphate insecticides
in terms of how they work and what kind of harmful effects
they cause; however, nerve agents are much more potent than
-Sarin originally was developed in 1938 in Germany
as an insecticide.
-Sarin is a clear, colorless, and tasteless liquid
that has no odor in its pure form. However, sarin can evaporate
into a vapor (gas) and spread into the environment.
-Sarin is also known as GB.
sarin is found and how it is used:
Sarin is not found naturally in the environment.
Sarin and other nerve agents may have been used in chemical warfare
during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.
Sarin was used in two terrorist attacks in Japan in 1994 and 1995.
people can be exposed to sarin:
If sarin is released into the air, people may be exposed through
skin contact or eye contact. They may also be exposed by breathing
air that contains sarin.
If sarin is released into water, people may be exposed by touching
or drinking water that contains sarin.
If sarin comes in contact with food, people may be exposed by eating
the contaminated food.
A persons clothing can release sarin for about 30 minutes
after it has come in contact with sarin vapor. Other people can
be exposed to sarin if they breathe this sarin gas.
Because sarin breaks down slowly in the body, people who are repeatedly
exposed to sarin may suffer more harmful health effects.
The extent of poisoning that sarin causes depends on three factors:
(1) the amount of sarin to which they were exposed, (2) how they
were exposed, and (3) the how long the exposure lasted.
Symptoms will appear within a few seconds after exposure to the
vapor form of sarin and within a few minutes up to 18 hours after
exposure to the liquid form.
All the nerve agents cause their toxic effects by preventing the
proper operation of the chemical that acts as the bodys off
switch for glands and muscles. Without an off switch,
the glands and muscles are constantly being stimulated. They may
tire and no longer be able to sustain breathing function.
Sarin vapor is heavier than air, so it would be more likely to settle
in low-lying areas.
Because sarin mixes easily with water, water can easily be contaminated.
Sarin is the most volatile of the nerve agents, which means that
it can easily and quickly evaporate from a liquid into a vapor and
spread into the environment. People can be exposed to the vapor
even if they do not come in contact with the liquid form of sarin.
Because it evaporates so quickly, sarin presents an immediate, but
signs and symptoms of sarin exposure:
People may not know that they were exposed because sarin has
People exposed to a low or moderate dose of sarin by breathing contaminated
air, eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, or touching
contaminated surfaces may experience some or all of the following
symptoms within seconds to hours of exposure:
-Runny nose -Watery
-Small, pinpoint pupils
-Drooling and excessive sweating
-Rapid breathing -Diarrhea
vomiting, and/or abdominal pain
-Slow or fast heart rate
-Low or high blood pressure
Even a small drop of sarin on the skin can cause sweating and muscle
twitching where sarin touched the skin.
Exposure to large doses of sarin by any route may result
in the following harmful health effects: Loss of consciousness,
Convulsions, Paralysis, Respiratory failure, possibly leading to
What the long-term health effects are:
Mild or moderately exposed people usually recover completely.
Some studies in animals and people suggest that severe nerve agent
poisoning can cause long-term central nervous system effects, such
as changes in brain activity. However, it is unclear what such changes
may mean, if anything, regarding the function and long-term health
status of a person who has been mildly or moderately exposed to
How people can protect themselves and what they should do if they
are exposed to sarin:
-Recovery from sarin exposure
is possible with treatment, but the antidotes available must be
used quickly to be effective. Therefore, the best thing to do is
avoid exposure. If exposure cannot be avoided, rapidly decontaminate
and get medical care as quickly as possible.
-Leave the area where the sarin was
released and get to fresh air. Quickly moving to an area where fresh
air is available is highly effective in reducing the possibility
of death from exposure to sarin vapors.
-If the sarin release was outdoors,
move away from the area where the sarin was released. Go to the
highest ground possible, because sarin is heavier than air and will
sink to low-lying areas.
-If the sarin release was indoors,
get out of the building.
-Remove any clothing that has liquid
sarin on it, and if possible, seal the clothing in a plastic bag.
Then seal the first plastic bag in a second plastic bag. Removing
and sealing the clothing in this way will protect you and others
from any chemicals that might be on your clothes.
-If helping other people remove their
clothing, try to avoid touching any contaminated areas, and remove
the clothing as quickly as possible.
-Rinse the eyes with plain water for
10 to 15 minutes if they are burning or if vision is blurry.
-As quickly as possible, wash any
liquid sarin from the skin with large amounts of soap and water.
Washing with soap and water will protect people from any chemicals
on their bodies.
-If sarin has been swallowed, do not
induce vomiting or give fluids to drink. Seek medical attention
-Stay calm. Dial 911 and explain what
-Wait for emergency personnel to arrive.
sarin poisoning is treated:
Sarin poisoning is treated with antidotes, if necessary, and
with supportive medical care. The most important thing is for victims
to be rapidly decontaminated and to be given medical treatment as
soon as possible.
How people can get more information about sarin:
poison control center (1-800-222-1222)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Response Hotline
English (888) 246-2675
Español (888) 246-2857
TTY (866) 874-2646
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) (1-888-422-8737)
information obtained from the CDC
(Center for Disease Control and Prevention)