Nerve agent VX is an odorless and tasteless toxin created by the military as a potent weapon-grade chemical. Three times as toxic as Sarin, VX is the most toxic nerve agent ever synthesized. It blocks chemicals in the victim’s body from functioning, preventing the enzyme acetylcholinesterase in muscles to allow them to relax. On March 17, 1968, thousands of sheep were “accidentally” exposed in Skull Valley, Utah. None survived.
A lethal dose consists of only 10 milligrams. Death is typically from asphyxiation. The diaphragm can’t contract, so you choke to death. A single drop of VX will kill a human in under ten minutes. “VX is an oily liquid that is amber in color and very slow to evaporate. It evaporates about as slowly as motor oil.” (BT) Since the agent is manmade it is not found naturally in the environment. It is possible that the 1980s Iran-Iraq war saw use of VX.
Utah is home to 800,000 acres of Dugway Proving Grounds, where the Army Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Weapons School has thousands of military tests. The facility was created in the 1940s. The original compound was created by Ranajit Ghosh, and it was put on the market shortly after as a pesticide. However, it was too lethal, and taken back off the market. VX was originally developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s.
- Molecular formula: C11H26NO2PS
- Density: 1.00083 g/mL
- Melting point: -50 °C, 223 K, -58 °F
- Boiling point: 298 °C, 571 K, 568 °F
- Vapor pressure : 0.0007 mm Hg (0.0933256 Pa) at 25 °C
The Dugway Sheep Incident
”The third test involved delivery via airplane, with over a ton of a special VX mixture sprayed over the desert. Unbeknownst to the pilot, the spray nozzle that controlled the flow of the chemical had broken. As he climbed to a higher altitude, the chemical continued to seep from the plane. Winds that day were blowing between 5-20 mph, with gusts reaching 35 mph. These strong easterly winds carried the VX straight to Skull Valley. The next day, the sheep grazing in the area began to die, and within days thousands of them had perished. The government and local numbers differ, but anywhere between 3,483 and 6,400 sheep died in the aftermath of the test.” (Damn Interesting)
Weapon of mass destruction
”In 1974 the US Senate ratified the international Biological Weapons Convention which prohibited the use of toxin-based weapons such as VX.” (Damn Interesting) Yet the military has still tested the compound on more than one occasion since. Officially the military has never taken responsibility for the deaths of the few thousand sheep, but did pay the ranch owners – and buried the sheep. It is clear the US government is hypocritical in chasing after weapons of mass destruction when they themselves produce the largest, biggest, and most supplied arsenal in the world. The US Army's CHASE (Cut Holes And Sink 'Em) program dumped nerve agent VX among other bioweapons into the ocean. That makes the government irresponsible too.
As seen in cinema
- In the movie The Rock, a group of rogue Marine Corps Force Recon commandos seize a stockpile of rockets armed with VX Nerve Agent and take over Alcatraz Island.
- In the television program Spooks, the plot of the fifth episode of the second series involved the theoretical release of VX in London.
- In the television series 24 (season 5) terrorists steal 20 canisters of Sentox VX1 nerve gas. The gas is deployed at several locations resulting in 67 deaths.
- In the television series "The Unit", episode Always Kiss Them Goodbye, VX agent is stolen from an Armory tasked with its destruction.
- Skinny Puppy did a song called VX Gas Attack in the late 80's.
If you are exposed to the nerve agent VX, call the Regional poison control center: 1-800-222-1222 immediately.