In Chemical Warfare, nerve agents are the most prevalent weapon. They affect the transmission of nerve impulses in the nervous system.
The UK Intelligence community has confirmed that a former Russian military intelligence officer and his daughter were recently killed in an English town by a nerve agent called Novichok. The bodies of the Russian’s son and wife are now being exhumed to determine their cause of death.
Whether the assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, was ordered by the Kremlin, FSB or the Russian mafia will be the subject of conjecture for months to come. But, the concern for corporate travellers is more immediate and they need to understand the nature of the threat.
All modern nerve agents belong to the chemical group of organic phosphorous compounds. They are easy to make with readily available materials. Not only are they highly toxic but they are stable and several have been aerosolized. The effects are rapid when absorbed by the skin or from breathing.
The most common nerve agents are Tabun, VX, Sarin, GF and Soman. Novichok includes a range of nerve agents that are similar to Satin and VX.
Unfortunately, Novichok agents are not listed on the banned product lists of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention because their existence was only made public after the treaty was signed.
6 ways to protect yourself against nerve agents
- Recognise the symptoms such as increased saliva, chest constriction, loss of bladder control, vomiting and skin sweats. These lead to muscular paralysis and death by suffocation.
- Invest in a mask to protect your face, eyes and respiratory tract. The use of a mask is improved with a charcoal filter.
- If you hear a warning about the release of a nerve agent, swallow a diazepam tablet. This will enhance the effects of other antidotes you might be given and protect against permanent brain damage.
- Swab furniture, equipment and tools with a 5% chlorine bleach solution. Use a 0.5% chlorine bleach solution to wash your body and extremities.
- Make a decontamination powder by mixing equal parts of chloride of lime with magnesium oxide. This powder will absorb and neutralise most nerve agents.
- Carry a Swedish auto-injector containing 2 mg of atropine and a reactivator.
Attend one of our courses and learn how to survive any nuclear, biological or chemical attack.
H.E.A.T. tip: Before you offer help to others, make sure that you are safe. Decontaminate the victims and then cordon off the affected areas.