Malaysian police identified VX nerve agent as the substance used to kill Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar said the substance was identified in a preliminary report by the department’s Center for Chemical Weapons Analysis.
Kim Jong Nam died Feb. 13 shortly after two women put the substance on his face while he was checking in for a flight at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia’s capital.
The report identified the substance as ethyl N-2-Diisopropylaminoethyl Methylphosphonothiolate, or VX nerve agent. It is a chemical agent classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.
Traces of the nerve agent were found from swabs of the face and eyes, the release said.
VX is the most lethal of nerve agents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is considered much more toxic than sarin by entry through the skin. “It is possible that any visible VX liquid contact on the skin, unless washed off immediately, would be lethal,” the CDC says on its website.
A dose of 10 milligrams on the skin is enough to be fatal. The production and stockpiling of more than 100 grams per year was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. North Korea, however, is one of six countries that are not signatories to the convention.
Here is what you need to know about the highly toxic chemical.
What is VX nerve agent?
The substance, identified as ethyl N-2-Diisopropylaminoethyl Methylphosphonothiolate, is a chemical agent classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.
They are similar to pesticides in terms of how they work and what kinds of harmful effects they cause. However, nerve agents are much more potent. VX is odorless and tasteless.
How lethal is the chemical agent?
VX is the most lethal of nerve agents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is considered much more toxic than sarin when it comes into contact with the skin. “It is possible that any visible VX liquid contact on the skin, unless washed off immediately, would be lethal,” according to the CDC.
How much of a dose can kill you?
A dose of 10 milligrams on the skin is enough to be fatal.
What are the symptoms of being exposed to VX?
People exposed to low, non-fatal doses of VX may experience increased heart rate, blurred vision, chest tightness, abnormally low or high blood pressure, drowsiness, nausea, diarrhea, drooling, pain and weakness. Large doses of VX can cause convulsions, loss of consciousness, paralysis and death, according to the CDC.
Symptoms will show within a few seconds after being exposed to the vapor, and up to 18 hours after bring exposed to the liquid form.
Is this agent readily available?
The Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 outlaws the production and stockpiling of more than 100 grams per year. North Korea is one of six countries that did not sign the treaty.
How quickly does the agent spread and evaporate?
If used, VX likely contaminated not only the airport but any place Kim visited, including medical facilities and the ambulance that transported him to the hospital. The nerve agent, which has the consistency of motor oil, can take days or even weeks to evaporate.