– Stands for “venemous agent X”
– A synthetic compound developed in the UK
– Tasteless and odourless nerve agent
– 3 micrograms/kg will kill
– Used to kill Kim Jong-nam
As part of research into new insecticides in the early 1950s, scientists discovered a nerve agent they dubbed VX (for venemous agent X). VX interferes with the transmission of nerve messages between cells and proved too toxic for use as an insecticide. One of the dangers of VX is its persistance in the environment as it doesn’t evaporate. An oily substance, VX was then developed for military use. The nerve agent can be inhaled or absorbed and causes muscle contractions to go out of control, killing by asphyxiation.
VX is now considered a weapon of mass destruction, and has been banned by the United Nations under the Chemical Weapons Convention: production and stockpiling of VX exceeding 100 grams (3.53 oz) per year is outlawed. The only exception is for “research, medical or pharmaceutical purposes outside a single small-scale facility in aggregate quantities not exceeding 10 kg (22 lb) per year per facility”
While more potent than sarin, it has rarely been used for murder. One member of the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult died by VX poisoning and in an accident in Skull Valley, Utah in 1968 approximately 4,000 sheep were killed.
In February 2017, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un was assassinated. Kim Jong-nam was in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia when he was attacked by some women. VX was found on his face. It’s thought the VX was applied in two different, non-lethal, components that when mixed after spraying on the victims face formed VX.