The VX nerve agent found on the face of the North Korean man who was murdered in Malaysia on Feb 13, is the most potent of all nerve agents.
Compared with the nerve agent sarin, also known as GB, VX is considered to be
much more toxic by entry through the skin and somewhat more toxic by inhalation.
This is according to information gleaned from the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the major operating components of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
“The extent of poisoning caused by VX depends on how much VX a person was
exposed to, how the person was exposed, and the length of time of the exposure,”
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar today revealed that VX was found following preliminary analysis of dry swabs of the eye mucosa and face taken in the course of police investigation into the killing.
He said the presence of the substance, a chemical weapon, was stated in the preliminary report received by police from the Chemistry Department.
The CDC said it was possible that any visible VX liquid contact on the skin, unless washed off immediately, would be lethal.
“All the nerve agents cause their toxic effects by preventing the proper operation of an enzyme that acts as the body’s ‘off switch’ for glands and muscles.
“Without an ‘off switch’, the glands and muscles are constantly being stimulated. They may tire and no longer be able to sustain breathing function,” it said.
VX can last for days on objects that it has come in contact with. Under very cold conditions, VX can last for months.
“Because it evaporates so slowly, VX can be a long-term threat as well as a short-term threat. Surfaces contaminated with VX should therefore be considered a long-term hazard,” the CDC said.
The man, which foreign press identified as Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was at the KL International Airport 2 (klia2) on Feb 13 to board a flight to Macau when two women suddenly appeared before him and wiped his face with the palms of their hands which contained a poisonous liquid.
He then sought help at a customer service counter at the airport and was rushed to the Putrajaya Hospital but died on the way.
He had come to Malaysia on Feb 6 and carried a passport bearing the name Kim Chol. – Bernama