A to Z Challenge: V (poisons & stories of their use)


Fast Facts:
– 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”

VX Nerve Agent in North Korean's Murder: How Does It Work? - Scientific  American
Kim Jong-nam
From: Scientific American

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.


14 comments on “A to Z Challenge: V (poisons & stories of their use)

  1. Never heard of this one, Anita. Ooh…

  2. I remember the airport attack by the women, but I had no idea they each had a part of what would combine to make poison. That takes some nefarious planning. *shudders*

  3. That heralded form of scientific work, the accident. Not much of a step from a nerve agent for bugs and a nerve agent for humans, I guess. Maybe some of the new breakthroughs that created the COVID vaccines will make pesticides safer, gotta have hope.

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this poison. Looks like a very powerful one too…

    • It’s interesting that this one isn’t as well known, although I guess there haven’t been the deaths associated with it that usually give a poison notoriety.

  5. Okay, gruesome as this all is, I kind of like the idea of murder that takes two people, and neither is capable of killing on their own, because each one has a non-lethal compound that only works when they’re combined. It could make for some interesting plots.
    Black and White: V for Valhalla, Vaikuntha

    • It definitely has the sounds of a fiction story around it, doesn’t it. It didn’t have to be mixed at the time of poisoning, there was a reason for it. I have a vague memory that the women claimed they didn’t know it was a poison or that what they were doing would cause a poison because they were acting on orders?

  6. I did hear about that assassination. I didn’t know the details, though. Goodness, people can be vile!

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