VX

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Overview


VX is one of the most pernicious and virulent of all chemical warfare agents. It was first synthesized in the early 1950s and later stockpiled by all Allied nations. It is highly toxic with 10 milligrams being lethal to humans.

Chemical Properties


VX is an odorless liquid with a density slightly greater than water and a viscosity similar to 30-weight motor oil and color ranging from clear to amber depending on purity (#Tucker, 2006). It is three times as toxic as Sarin making it the most toxic of all nerve agents. It is also the least volatile of the nerve agents which makes it extremely persistent pollutant once used (#CDC).

The degree of poisoning is directly related to the amount of VX exposure.

Pharmacology and Metabolism


VX is absorbed dermally, inhaled, or ingested and it blocks the enzyme cholinasterase resulting in an accumulation of acetylcholine that leads to nicotinic effects.

Health Effects


From #CDC:
People exposed to a low or moderate dose of VX by inhalation, ingestion (swallowing), or skin absorption may experience some or all of the following symptoms within seconds to hours of exposure:

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Small, pinpoint pupils
  • Eye pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Drooling and excessive sweating
  • Cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased urination
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain
  • Slow or fast heart rate
  • Abnormally low or high blood pressure
  • Even a tiny drop of nerve agent on the skin can cause sweating and muscle twitching where the agent touched the skin.


Exposure to a large dose of VX by any route may result in these additional health effects:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Convulsions
  • Paralysis
  • Respiratory failure possibly leading to death
  • Showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has been exposed to VX.

Current Events


July 28, 1999

Precaution


First, in case of VX exposure, one should leave the area of the phosgene release as quickly as possible. Remove clothing and wash entire body with soap or water and get to a medical care facility as quickly as possible.

Exposed clothing should be removed keeping it away from the head (cut off shirts if necessary rather than pull them off over the head) and should be sealed in a plastic bag if possible (#CDC). If one has ingested phosgene, do not induce vomiting or drink any fluids.

Atropine is a known antidote for VX exposure.


References



CDC site on VX


Tucker, Johnathon B. War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda. Pantheon Books, 2006.


Hutchinson, Robert. Weapons of mass Destruction: The No-nonsense Guide to Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons Today. Widenfield and nicholson, 2003.


Smart, Jeffery K., M.A. (1997). "History of Biological and Chemical Warfare". Textbook of Military Medicine: Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare. Retrieved Jan. 5, 2006 from Center for Diaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM).


Emedicine.com. Retreived Jan. 5, 2004.

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