Chemical weapons warning in Syria: What is sarin?

Sarin is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent and is the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. It is similar to certain kinds of pesticides, called organophosphates, but is much more potent.

  • Sarin originally was developed in 1938 in Germany as a pesticide.
  • Sarin is a clear, colourless, and tasteless liquid that has no odour in its pure form. However, sarin can evaporate into a vapour (gas) and spread into the environment.

Symptoms appear within a few seconds after exposure to the vapour form of sarin and within a few minutes and up to 18 hours after exposure to the liquid form.

Symptoms of exposure include:

  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Small, pinpoint pupils, blurry vision and eye pain
  • Drooling and excessive sweating
  • Coughing, tightness in the chest and rapid breathing
  • Confusion, weakness and drowsiness
  • Altered heart rate or blood pressure

Sarin is the most volatile of the nerve agents, which means that it can easily and quickly evaporate from a liquid into a vapour and spread.

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Syrian chemical weapons claim

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