What Is It?

In 1936, Germany first developed tabun as an insecticide. It was the first nerve agent discovered. It is a clear, colorless and tasteless liquid with a slightly fruity odor, and is a lethal like sarin, although only about half as toxic.

What Are the Symptoms of Exposure?

The symptoms are: runny nose; tightness of the chest; dimness of vision and miosis of the eye pupils; difficulty in breathing; drooling and excessive sweating; nausea; vomiting, cramps, and involuntary defecation and urination; twitching, jerking, and staggering; and headache, confusion, drowsiness, coma, and convulsions. These symptoms are followed by discontinued breathing and death. Symptoms appear much more slowly from a skin dosage than from a respiratory dosage. If skin absorption is great enough, death may occur in one to two minutes, or it may be delayed for one to two hours. Lethal respiratory dosages kill in one to 10 minutes, and liquid in the eye kills almost as rapidly.

How Is It Treated?

For inhaled exposure, victims are given atropine or other nerve agent antidotes. Injections may be repeated at five to 20 minute intervals if signs and symptoms are progressing, until three series of injections have been administered.

If tabun gets into one's eyes, a person should immediately flush them with water for 10-15 minutes, then put on a respiratory mask. Although miosis may be an early sign of agent exposure, an injection will not be administered when miosis is the only symptom present.

When skin contact occurs, victims should wear respiratory masks and remove contaminated clothing. Skin should be washed with a lot of soap and water, 10 percent sodium carbonate solution, or 5 percent liquid household bleach. A nerve agent antidote should only be administered if local sweating and muscular twitching symptoms occur.

If one ingests tabun, first symptoms are likely to be gastrointestinal and victims should be given a nerve antidote.

Who Has It/Where Can It Be Found?

There are unconfirmed reports of sheltered Scud missiles with sarin or tabun nerve gas warheads deployed in caves and shelters near Damascus, Syria. Iraq has maintained it has large stockpiles of mustard gas, sarin and tabun.