Sarin Fast Facts

Live sarin and VK nerve agent training in chemical warfare defense. Location: Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, United States. (Photo by Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images)

(CNN)Here's some background information about sarin, a man-made nerve agent developed for chemical warfare.


    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)

    Runny nose
    Watery eyes
    Small, pinpoint pupils
    Eye pain
    Blurred vision
    Drooling and excessive sweating
    Chest tightness
    Rapid breathing
    Increased urination
    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.
    June 27, 1994 - In Japan, seven people die and more than 500 are hospitalized when the Aum Supreme Truth (or Aum Shinri Kyo) cult releases sarin from a truck by driving slowly around an apartment complex in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture. Another victim dies in 2008.
    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 23, 2006 - The US Army releases a report to Congress stating that allied forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions containing degraded mustard or sarin gas since the start of the Iraq War in 2003. The weapons were produced before the 19