Kim Jong-nam was killed with nerve agent


Originally published at:


Drops on the skin can wreak havoc on the nervous system and be enough to kill.

It has been pointed out that short-term skin contact with VX isn’t necessarily harmful with quick decontamination, as it isn’t absorbed instantly- which is why the assassin could have wiped it on his face with a bare hand and still be alive.


Or as the North Korean authorities say: “Some guy who may or may not have been Kim Jong-nam died in Malaysia but probably from a heart attack and definitely not from a nerve agent and the autopsy was illegal anyway and we don’t even know those women who had the nerve agent and you can’t prove anything and we demand you return the body of Kim Jong-nam our citizen.”


She is alive, but she did become ill, with vomiting - according to police chief Khalid Abu Bakar.


Ugh, the nerve of some agents.


I did part of my medical training in Terre Haute, IN, just south of a huge VX storage facility (unclear if it was also a manufacturing facility, though I imagine that the preference would be to minimize risk from transporting the stuff along railways). There was always an undercurrent of mild anxiety while I was there, though many residents were blissfully unaware, and many of those who were aware tended to dismiss it with a shrug – “If they blow it up, then that’s that for us, I guess…” Fun times!


They should just issue autoinjectors to people living in the area. Based on a documentary I saw on the subject a couple decades back, that will save you from the effects of VX:


So this isn’t something he could just randomly encounter in any airport?


Side effects may include overacting, mugging, laughing hysterically, and scenery chewing…


That’s pretty much the premise behind this film:

In spite of its serious subject matter, parts of the film are hilarious. I had never laughed as hard (i.e. to the point of tears) as I did when I first watched this.


I do wonder just how positively identified this actually is… The amounts of agent are going to be tiny, and the sorts of field-testing techniques/kits are really only used to confirm that something IS a chemical agent and what kind of treatment is indicated. So while it’s important to distinguish between, say mustard agents (H agents) and V agents finding out exactly which of several chemically similar agents are involved isn’t necessary.
And almost all chemical agents are liquid at room temperature.



What’s really scary is that, according to Wikipedia, at least 124 tons of VX encased in munitions has been dumped in the ocean off of coasts of New York, New Jersey, and Florida.

Surplus munitions from WWI, which were dumped into the ocean, occasionally turn up on New Jersey beaches in replenishment sand pumped up from offshore borrow pits. Thus far no more modern munitions have been found.



Depends on which GOP members you talk to; apparently there are terrorists everywhere.


Well, maybe there are, because I can’t be the only one who feels abject terror at the state of the world.


V-series agents aren’t terribly volatile, so there was probably enough for a small but usable sample; and when the people you suspect of having just killed someone notable are terribly volatile, I suspect that you put real analytical chemists on the case, not just pull out the field test kit and seeing what color it turns.


Interesting note in the NYT article on this:

VX nerve agent can be delivered in two compounds that are mixed at the last moment to create a lethal dose. The police say that two women approached Mr. Kim at the airport with the poison on their hands and rubbed it on his face one after the other.


Conventionally that’s more of a GB agent thing, which makes me more suspicious of the story.