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VX nerve agent

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VX nerve agent
Model of VX skeletal design.pngBall model of VX.png
Systematic name Ethyl ({2-[bis(propan-2-yl)amino]ethyl}
Other names 2-(Diisopropylamino)
ethyl]-O-ethyl methylphosphonothioate
Molecular formula C11H26N O2PS
Molar mass 267.37 g/mol
Appearance Amber colored liquid
CAS number 50782-69-9
Density and phase Density::1.008 g/ml liquid
Melting point Melting point::-29°C
Boiling point Boiling point::298°C
Viscosity 9.958
MSDS Material safety data sheet
Main hazards highly toxic
NFPA 704

NFPA 704 svg.png

Flash point 159°C
RTECS number TB1090000
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Disclaimer and references

VX nerve agent is one of the most deadly chemicals that has ever been created. Like many nerve agents, it has no other use than a weapon of mass destruction, and is never found naturally. The chemical was created in the early 1950's while the inventor was trying to find a pesticide. VX has a molecular formula of C11H26N O2PS, and is a member of the organophosphates class. VX nerve agent is over ten times as toxic as sarin gas, which is twice as deadly as cyanide. With an average lethal dose of 10 mg in gaseous form VX can kill in under a minute. While in a liquid form it takes a little longer, it can still kill incredibly fast. Today most of the world stockpiles of VX are waiting to be destroyed, because they cannot all be destroyed at once for environmental reasons.


While VX is commonly called a gas, it actually remains in a liquid form most of the time. It is a amber colored liquid that looks and feels like high grade motor oil. VX has a high viscosity and a low volatility, ability to evaporate. This means that the VX will not evaporate or move from where it was used very easily. It also has excellent adhesive abilities which allows it to stick to wherever it was used. This means that if anyone unprotected enters the site they will contract the poison and could easily die from it. The V symbolizes the long persistence of VX and how it can easily remain in an area for several days after it was first used.[1]


VX Nerve Gas was discovered in 1952 by the chemist team of Dr. Ranajit Ghosh and J. F. Newman at the Plant Protection Laboratories of Imperial Chemical Industries in Britain. Their team was looking into the development of pesticides when they created VG gas, or amiton. After they marketed this gas for a short time, they recalled it because it proved too toxic to be used safely. The British military, whom samples had been sent to, took an interest in the chemical and began to research it. Over the next several years several more compounds were added to the V gas series, in which the V symbolizes its long lifespan. The British military eventually gave the formula to the United States in exchange for information on thermonuclear weapons. The U.S. military continued the research into the V series nerve agents, and they eventually settled on VX gas as their chemical weapon of choice. Research into the V series stopped in 1955 because its toxicity to humans was recognized. [2]


This is a picture of VX rockets getting ready to be destroyed

Due to its high toxicity VX gas has no practical uses, except in chemical warfare. When the V series were first discovered there was interest in using them as pesticides, but they were determined to be too hazardous for safe use. In chemical warfare it can be placed in missiles, artillery shells, or dispersed from the a plane or helicopter, but the last two are seldom used because of the dangers that the chemical poses. The only other use, aside from the military using VX gas, would be in the form of a terrorist attack.


Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, Iraq produced an unknown quantity of VX gas before the invasion of US and allied troops. Iraq began looking into VX gas around 1985, and continued the project up until 1990, the dates however are speculation and no concrete evidence exists as to the exact start and stop point. During their production stages, Iraq claims to have produced only 3.9 tons of VX gas. However, during the Iraqi war evidence was uncovered that led to US troops to believe that Iraq produced upwards of 50 tons of VX. Saddam Hussein may have used VX gas in two different occasions: during the battle of Fao, and also in chemical attacks against the Kurds. [3]

Battle of Fao

Graves of the victims of the Halabja massacre

During the two day battle, Iran invaded the oil rich areas of the Al Faw peninsula in order to prevent an ecological disaster from the oil rigs being destroyed, and to prevent the Iraqis from getting oil. In the opening of the battle hardened Iranian veterans invaded and seized the oil rigs, forcing the Iraqi army to evacuate the rigs. Several hours later the Iraqis responded by sending in a massive amount of their main army, the Republican guard. During the Iraqi counterattack several VX gas shells were used against the Iranian troops, and they were forced to retreat from the peninsula 35 hours after the Iraqi attack started. [4]

Attacks on the Kurdish Villages

In 1987, Saddam Hussein ordered acts of genocide against the Kurdish people in northern Iraq. The worst act of genocide occurred on March 16, 1988, in the Kurdish village of Halabja.[5] The Iraqi army opened fire with rockets and napalm attacks, followed by its air force dropping chemical bombs on the city. The chemicals used were: VX gas, Tabun, mustard gas, sarin, and hydrogen cyanide. The death toll was estimated at 5,000 dead from the actual attack, 10,000 wounded, and several thousand more died from complications caused by the attacks.[6]

Aum Shinrikyo

Aum Shinrikyo is a Japanese terrorist organization that has recruited several trained organic chemists. These chemists were able to synthesize small quantities of VX gas. The VX gas was used in the assassination of a former member of the organization. Over the last twenty years this organization is the known perpetrators for seventeen chemical weapons attacks, and has been linked to thirteen other attacks. Of these attacks four of them used sarin gas, four used VX gas, and also hydrogen cyanide, and phosgene. The VX gas attacks were to strike at former members, as well against an attorney who had been helping victims of their attacks. The VX gas was delivered to the target through members walking up to the target and spraying him with VX gas from a syringe, as well as placing it on his car doors, squirting it through his keyhole in his apartment, and placing it in the ventilation system of his car. The VX gas attacks killed over twenty-five people and came close to killing twenty more. [7]


After someone has been exposed to VX, the first step to treating them would be to quickly evacuate the area of exposure. They must remove all clothing and items that are on their body, in order to remove the contaminants. Afterwards they must also be washed in a mixture of hot water, soap, and bleach.[8]There is an antidote to VX poisoning, but if they have not been exposed and only think they have, then the antidote will kill them. The antidote is called atropine that has been mixed with pralidoxime chloride. The location of where the antidote should be injected depends on the form of VX. If the VX was in liquid form then the antidote can be injected into the thigh or arm. However, if VX was in a gaseous form then the antidotes must be injected directly into the heart. The antidote has the highest chance of success if it is injected as close to the initial exposure as possible.


This is a 3d model of the protein acetylcholinesterase

VX nerve agent is one of the most toxic chemicals ever created, and also one of the hardest to detect. When used as a gas, it is odorless, tasteless, and can remain in the area it was used in for several days. When used as a liquid, it is amber colored, has a high viscosity, and is a very strong adhesive. Due to its high viscosity VX will not flow to a new area very easily, but will remain in the same general area for a long time. Since it is an excellent adhesive, VX will stick to the walls, and grounds of the place where it was used, and if anyone tries to use that area they will be exposed to VX as well.[1]

How it Works

VX gas works by blocking the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. This enzyme creates acetylcholine which stimulates muscle contractions. The more acetylcholine produced the stronger the muscle movement will be. VX causes the enzyme to produce massive amounts of acetylocholine which stimulates muscles all over the body, and will eventually kill the victim by asphyxiation, because the diaphragm is contracting too much to support breathing and the victim dies because it cannot breathe[9]

Symptoms of Exposure

Symptoms of VX poisoning can arrive within seconds or hours after the initial exposure. Some of the reported symptoms of VX poisoning are:

• Runny nose

• Blurred Vision

• Constriction of pupils

• Trouble breathing

• Drooling

• Vomiting

• Loss of reflexes

• Spasms

• Coughing

• Tightness in chest

• Loss of mental abilities

• Drowsiness


Muscle fatigue

• Erratic heart beat

• Abnormal blood pressure

• Loss of consciousness

• Paralysis

Death [10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Harrison, Karl. VX Gas . June 1998.
  2. New World Encyclopedia contributors . VX (nerve agent). New World Encyclopedia. Published February, 16, 2009.
  3. Nerve Agent: VX . published January, 12, 2002. Author Unknown.
  4. Second Battle of Al Faw. published July, 11, 2011. Author Unknown.
  5. Halabja poison gas attack. published December, 11, 2011. Author Unknown.
  6. The Iraq Crisis - TimelineChronology of Modern Iraqi History. Accessed January, 19, 2012. Author Unknown.
  7. Chronology of Aum Shinrikyo's CBW Activities. Web. accessed January 2, 2012 Author-Unknown.
  8. Facts About VX. CDC. published March 23, 2005. Author Unknown.
  9. VX (Nerve Agent). accessed January 28, 2012 . Author Unknown
  10. VX Gas or VX Vapor.'. accessed January 28, 2012 . Author Unknown.