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Weapon of chemical warfare that affects the transmission of nerve impulses through the nervous system. The organophosphorus nerve agents Tabun, Sarin, and Soman were developed by Germany during World War II but not used. They and a newer agent, VX, were produced in huge quantities by the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cold War; their stockpiling and use during war are now banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. A single droplet of VX or Sarin, if inhaled or in contact with the skin, can be absorbed into the bloodstream and paralyze the nervous system, leading to respiratory failure and immediate death. Sarin was used in 1995 in a lethal attack in the Tokyo subways by members of AUM Shinrikyo.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on nerve gas, visit Britannica.com.