Sarin

What is Sarin?

Sarin is a highly toxic nerve agent estimated to be 26 times more potent than cyanide. It is a man made toxin that is colourless, odourless and tasteless. When mixed with water,  produces a relatively non-toxic material, due to the loss of the fluorine atoms. It has the chemical formula, C4H10FO2P.

What is Sarin used for?

Originally created as a stronger pesticide, sarin was accidentally discovered and soon passed on for chemical warfare use during war times. It’s use as a weapon has been extremely destructive to human life and production of the chemical has been outlawed since 1997 as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is now classified as a Schedule 1 substance.

Sarin was a standard chemical weapon for the United States military during most of the 1950s
Sarin was a standard chemical weapon for the United States military during most of the 1950s

Sarin Hazards

The routes of exposure for sarin include; inhalation, ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of sarin mists or fumes may produce severely toxic effects that can be lethal. Symptoms of inhalation include; numbness, tingling sensations, incoordination, headache, dizziness, tremors, blurred vision, difficulty breathing, sweating, abdominal cramps, nausea and slowed heartbeat. Symptoms can be delayed, beginning 1 to 4 weeks after the acute exposure with permanent damage being a possibility. Early warning signs of sarin poisoning include; a runny nose, chest discomfort, wheezing, tearing, breathing difficulties, low blood pressure and twitching, to name a few. Fatalities in humans are generally due to respiratory failure caused by central nervous system paralysis. 

Ingestion of sarin is likely to lead to severely toxic effects and may cause fatality. Ingestion may produce; nausea, vomiting, anorexia, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. Delayed symptoms that begin 1 to 4 weeks after the acute exposure is a possibility. 

Skin exposure to sarin may produce severely toxic effects that can be fatal. Skin contact can cause sweating and muscle contractions on the exposed area. Entry into the bloodstream through open cuts or wounds is likely to cause harmful effects. The estimated lethal dose for skin exposure is 1700mg.

Eye exposure is expected to cause irritation and ocular lesions that can remain for over a day after the exposure. Prolonged exposure can cause inflammation, redness, vision impairment and other transient eye damage. Absorption through the eyes may cause harmful effects. 

Sarin Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area and seek medical attention immediately. Lay the patient down in a clean area and remove any contaminated clothing. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR, preferably with a bag-valve mask device. Give atropine if instructed and transport to hospital without delay. 

If swallowed, seek medical attention immediately. Activated charcoal or atropine may be recommended. The patient should be transported to the hospital together with a copy of the SDS.

If skin exposure occurs, remove all contaminated clothing and footwear and immediately wash the affected area with soap and water. Give atropine if instructed and transport to hospital without delay. 

If the chemical is exposed to the eyes, flush the eyes out immediately with fresh running water for at least 15 minutes, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Contact lenses should be removed only by skilled personnel. Transport to hospital without delay. 

Sarin Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains and safety showers must be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical and adequate ventilation to remove or dilute any air contaminants to prevent overexposure is a must.  

The PPE recommended when handling sarin includes; safety glasses with unperforated side shields, chemical goggles, full face shields, full face respirator with supplied air, elbow length PVC gloves, full body protective suits and safety footwear.

Due to the extreme toxicity of sarin, there are varying levels of emergency instruction depending on the type of contamination. Your SDS will detail all the safety procedures you should follow when in the presence of sarin. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at sales@chemwatch.net for more information about our chemicals management solutions.