The nerve agent
VX is one of the most deadly chemical
s existing in our world today. Despite often being referred to as VX gas
, it also comes in a liquid
form. In its liquid state it is oily, odourless and colourless (although some references claim it can appear amber in colour
The fact that it is so persistent
makes VX even more hazard
ous. It can remain around ground level for 3-4 weeks, or even months in very cold weather, and its rate of evaporation
is at least
1500 times that of water
VX was developed by chemists in Port Down, Wiltshire, England in 1952. These chemists were actually searching for new insecticides when they made their discovery of chemical compounds that were extremely dangerous and lethal to humans. In 1953, the British traded these findings with the US Army in exchange for information on thermonuclear weapons. The US Army decided to categorise the chemical in its own class, V, because it was much more persistent than any G-class substances (for instance, sarin).
The lethal dosage for humans is as little as 10mg. In other words, coming into contact with as much as a drop of VX will kill you. It can enter a human body through contact with the skin and/or eyes, inhalation and ingestion. VX is twice to three times as toxic as sarin when inhaled and 100 times more toxic when it enters through skin.
Symptoms from exposure include but are not limited to watery eyes, drooling and excessive sweating, confusion, difficulty breathing, dimness of vision, vomiting, cramps, loss of bladder control, twitching and convulsions. Victims may also fall into a coma, but the severity of such symptoms depends on the amount and length of exposure.
Being a nerve agent, VX works similarly to other nerve agents (once again, think sarin). It can cut off a person's nervous system by binding to enzymes that send signals to nerves. It then stops these enzymes from transmitting and thus the nerves are cut off from one another and all control is lost. Glands and muscles continue to operate involuntary and eventually tire. This can cause death because they are unable to keep the respiratory system working.
There is an antidote that can counteract the effects of VX. It is atropine, an anti-nerve agent and it works by removing VX from the enzyme. Usually atropine would be injected into a victim's arm or thigh but if VX has been inhaled, the atropine needs to immediately go to the heart. Muscle relaxants may also be used to take away the strain on muscles and limit any permanent damage being caused.
Protection from VX requires the use of non-permeable full-bodied suits and gas masks. Any amount of skin exposed leaves a person at risk. If someone has had their skin contaminated they should immediately wash their clothes and skin with large amounts of soap and water, 10% sodium carbonate solution or 5% liquid household bleach. Contamination through the skin is extremely toxic, but there is hope as VX is absorbed slowly. Those who have encountered contact through the eyes should immediately flush their eyes out with water for 15 or so minutes. Obviously, anyone who comes into contact should immediately seek medical assistance.
The US, France and Russia are currently the only known countries to possess the chemical VX. Even though England invented VX they decided to discontinue further development of it. Because of the threat of wind, VX is too dangerous to use for local attacks (it might be blown back onto base) and due to this VX has never been used to its fullest potential.