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September 2nd, 2013
08:07 PM ET

What are "signatures of sarin"?

On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. has discovered "signatures of sarin" gas that prove the al-Assad regime used chemical weapons. Brian Todd investigates what those signatures are and how reliable the evidence is.


Filed under: Brian Todd • Chemical weapons • Syria
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. LilMuse

    Which signatures were positive? Everyone in the U.S. would test + for 'signatures' of sarin, thanks to our water supply alone.
    Sarin has the chemical formula:
    [(CH3)2CHO]CH3P(O)F

    The only elements in this formula are:

    Fluorine
    Carbon
    Hydrogen
    Oxygen
    Phosphorous

    Out of those five elements, four of them (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorous) occur naturally in the human body in large quantities. Fluorine is the only element that strongly stands out against the rest in terms of elemental analysis. And fluorine is the same element that forms the basis of sodium fluoride. Sarin can, of course, also be detected as a complete molecule using liquid chromatography systems (HPLC), but this is highly unlikely to have taken place given the inherent instability of the molecule, which breaks apart upon exposure to simple moisture in the air or in the body.

    Also beware of fake videos. Crisis actors are in high demand these days.

    September 5, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • OK

      Who the hell said that the only way to detect its use was to find the intact molecule itself? Maybe these signatures also consist of typical and specific reactions to certain types of human protein that would likely come from no other substance?

      Think before you speak and jump to conclusions/ Just because you know a little, doesn't make you an expert forensic biochemist.

      September 5, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • Trevor

      Sounds like you caught a half-truth there. Still. would it not be possible for a 'stronger' than normal background signature? What levels would implicate a deliberate use of Sarin versus a background one?

      September 6, 2013 at 12:59 am |

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