What the chemical used in the Syria attack does to the human body.

WARNING: This post contains images of Syrian children in pain and details the effects of a chemical weapon.

Sarin is believed to be the chemical used in a deadly attack on Syrian people on Tuesday that has so far killed at least 70 men, women and children and injured dozens more.

As the world reels amid US intelligence-backed reports the attack was carried out by the Syrian government, we take a look at the deadly chemical.

Sarin is a nerve agent said to be several times more deadly than cyanide. It was first developed as an insecticide by German chemists 1938, but was soon developed into a nerve gas weapon when its effects on humans became apparent.

These effects are horrific.

Sarin interferes with the body’s nervous system – in particular, nerves that usually switch on and off to control muscle movements.

This results in the agony of uncontrollable secretions – people’s eyes water, they drool, vomit and empty their bowel and bladder. Their lungs can secrete fluids to try to repel the gas, causing them to foam at the mouth.

Victims can also experience blurred vision, while their breathing becomes erratic and shallow and their bodies convulse. This inability to breathe kills victims.

A man is treated after a suspected chemical attack in Syria. (Getty)

Exposure is not always fatal, but a lethal dose is tiny and can kill in just 60 seconds and often in less than 10 minutes.


There is no antidote for sarin and due to its odourless, colourless quality, victims often don't know what has hit them.

Though it was developed into a weapon in Nazi Germany, the then-government held off using it in World War II because they feared retaliation.

However, sarin has since been used to kill and injure thousands.

In 1988, Saddam Hussein's regime killed about 5000 Kurds by using sarin and sulphur mustard Halabja in northern Iraq.

Then in 1995 it was used by Japanese doomsday cult, Aum Shinrikyo, to kill 12 people and injure thousands in a Tokyo subway attack.

Feeling powerless? Here's what we can do to help the people of Syria:

You can donate to CARE Australia's Syria Appeal who are providing emergency food, hygiene kits, mattresses and blankets to thousands of affected families.

You can donate to World Vision's relief fund.  

You can support organisations like Welcome to Australia and the ASRC.

You can also write to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and your local MP, letting them know that you want to live in a compassionate nation that welcomes people who are fleeing violence and persecution.