Highly Toxic VX-Nerve Agent in News

Malaysia says, Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, was killed by a highly toxic nerve agent. Kim died after two women accosted him briefly in a check-in hall at a Kuala Lumpur airport.

Malaysian toxicology reports indicate he was attacked using VX nerve agent, which is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.

There is widespread suspicion that North Korea was responsible for the attack. Fiercely denying the allegation, North Korea responded furiously to Malaysia’s insistence on conducting a post-mortem examination and accused Malaysia of having sinister purposes.

VX (IUPAC name: O-ethyl S-[2-(diisopropylamino)ethyl] methylphosphonothioate), an extremely toxic organophosphate, is a tasteless and odorless liquid with an amber-like color that severely disrupts the body’s nervous system and is used as a nerve agent in chemical warfare.

VX is originally an American code name for the official chemical name: S-2 Diisoprophylaminoethyl methylphosphonothiolate. It is banned under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), meaning states should not manufacture it and should destroy their stockpiles.

Ten milligrams (0.00035 oz) is sufficient for it to be fatal through skin contact, and the median lethal dose for inhalation is estimated to be 30–50 mg·min/m3.

As a chemical weapon, it is classified as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) by the United Nations Resolution 687.

The production and stockpiling of VX exceeding 100 grams (3.53 oz) per year was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. The only exception is for “research, medical or pharmaceutical purposes outside a single small-scale facility in aggregate quantities not exceeding 10 kg [22 lb] per year per facility”.

The VX nerve agent is the best-known of the V-series of nerve agents and is considered an area denial weapon due to its physical properties. It is far more potent than sarin, another well-known nerve agent toxin, but works in a similar way.