A few critiques of the whole "nerve agent" node. A lot of folks have
written a lot of good stuff about nerve agent, but here are some additional
details (and corrections) that may prove useful to some.
- While nerve agents are very popular, they are not the most
popular chemical agent in use in the world today. This dubious
honor belongs to a class of chemical agents known as vesicants. The
most widely known version of which is Mustard Agent, also known, incorrectly,
as Mustard Gas. Compared to vesicants, nerve agents are much more
expensive and difficult to manufacture, which is why, while they are common,
they are not as common as vesicants. Vesicants have some
other advantages which I will describe under that node.
- Nerve agents aren't that hard to distribute, and are extremely deadly.
Aum Shinrikyo just wasn't very good at it. The Tokyo subway
attack was poorly planned, poorly executed, and botched. The concentrations
used were low compared to common weaponized agent. If utilized correctly
by trained professionals, few weapons are as lethal against unprepared
civilians. The 5000 or so Kurds exposed to nerve agent at the hands
of Saddam Hussein experienced a fatality rate close to 100%, compared to
a fatality rate of 2% suffered by American soldiers exposed to chemical
weapons during World War I.
- Nerve agents can, in fact, kill you rather quickly. Although,
like most agents, the speed of symptom onset (and death) is proportional
to the amount of the dose received by the victim. If you were to breathe
in a couple of lungfuls of vaporized GB near the dispersion point, you
could quite possibly be dead before you knew it. The agent would hit
the bloodstream rather rapidly after entering through the lungs, and as
the lung-damaging effects are not immediately noticeable and the agents are
colorless and odorless, you could be walking along your merry way, happily
breathing in more agent and increasing your dosage well beyond the toxic
levels before the agent hit your heart and you dropped dead, rather unexpectedly.
You don't live for very long when your heart stops. And since
your buddy didn't know either (unless he noticed your pupils had become
pinpointed) he probably went down just before or after you hit the dirt.
- Nerve agents do affect the brain. Some of the effects of nerve
agent exposure include headache, confusion, drowsiness, coma, and
- "While oximes do stop further damage from occurring, it should be
noted that any damage that's already been done is permanent. " - This statement
is untrue. Your body does a pretty decent job of metabolizing the
agent, it just doesn't do it quickly enough to keep you from dying.
"If recovery from nerve agent poisoning occurs, it will be complete
unless anoxia or convulsions have gone unchecked so long that
irreversible central nervous system changes due to anoxemia
have occurred." - MSDS, VX
- Americans didn't invent VX, the British did. We did, however,
help with final development and eventually were responsible for production.
- In standard field concentrations, a NATO-standard protective mask
will probably be enough to keep you alive. Since the most common method
of agent delivery is artillery shell, if you're close enough to the dispersal
point to have to worry about liquid on the skin, the explosion or shrapnel
probably killed you anyway. The area affected by this hazard is very
small compared to the large downwind hazard created by the plume of vapor
that will waft in the direction of the wind, at the speed the wind is traveling.
If the air is stable, this plume can be very, very large.