United Nations investigators on Thursday blamed a sarin gas massacre on Bashar al-Assad’s regime, as the United States renewed its warning that he has no role in Syria’s future.
Sarin is a deadly nerve agent used in chemical warfare.
This man-made substance — originally developed as a pesticide in Germany — was banned under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.
It attacks the body’s nervous system and is so toxic that a single drop can kill a human being within minutes, unless treated.
Sarin is a clear, odourless and tasteless liquid which mixes easily with water. This means it can be used to make poison or contaminate food.
It also evaporates into gas form. Once released into the atmosphere it spreads, contaminating those who inhale it.
Symptoms of mild exposure include headaches, blurred vision, breathing difficulties, vomiting and diarrhea.
Exposure to high doses can lead to loss of consciousness, paralysis, respiratory failure and ultimately death.
In 1988, some five thousand people died when Saddam Hussein’s regime carried out a sarin attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja, in northern Iraq.
Sixty-five thousand were left with severe injuries such as skin and respiratory diseases.
In Japan, 13 people were killed and thousands injured in 1995, in a sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s metro.
SABRINA BLANCHARD / AFP VIDEOGRAPHICS / AFP