Nerve Agent

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Nerve agents do affect the brain.  Some of the effects of nerve agent exposure include headache, confusion, drowsiness, coma, and convulsion.
  5. "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.
  6. "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

  7. Americans didn't invent VX, the British did.  We did, however, help with final development and eventually were responsible for production.
  8. 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.