Nerve Agents

Agent Identification


Agent Identification

Nerve agents are the most toxic of the known chemical warfare agents. They are chemically similar to organophosphate pesticides and exert their biological effects by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase enzymes.

  • Nerve agents can cause loss of consciousness and convulsions within seconds and death from respiratory failure within minutes of exposure.

Volatile Nerve Agents (vapor)

  • Nerve agent vapor is readily absorbed by inhalation and ocular contact and produces rapid local and systemic effects.
  • G-type agents are clear colorless and tasteless liquids that are miscible in water and most organic solvents.
  • GB is odorless and is the most volatile nerve agent; however, it evaporates at about the same rate as water. GA has a slightly fruity odor and GD has a slight camphor-like odor.

Low Volatility Nerve Agents (liquid)

  • Liquid nerve agent is readily absorbed through the skin; however, effects may be delayed for several minutes to up to18 hours.
  • VX is a clear, amber-colored, odorless, oily liquid. It is miscible with water and soluble in all solvents. It is the least volatile nerve agent.
  • Responders should obtain assistance in identifying the chemical(s) from container shapes, placards, labels, shipping papers, and analytical tests. General information on these identification techniques is located in Emergency Response Guidebook.
  • Devices - M8, M9 chemical agent detector paper (liquid agents), M18A3 chemical agent detectors (vapor), M256A1 chemical agent detector kit (liquid and vapor), Draeger CDS Kit (vapor and aerosol), Hazmat Smart Strips (qualitative), Chemical Agent Detector C2 Kit (liquid and vapor), Chemical Agent Monitor (CAM) (vapor)
  • A comprehensive source for the selection of chemical identification equipment is the Guide for the Selection of Chemical Detection Equipment for Emergency First Responders, Guide 100-06, January 2007, 3rd Edition published by the Department of Homeland Security to assist with this process.
Find more information on this substance at: PubChem, PubMed