News Article | February 25, 2017
North Korea's state media has identified the victim only as Kim Chol -- the name under which Jong-Nam was travelling (AFP Photo/JUNG Yeon-Je) North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's half brother was assassinated with a lethal nerve agent manufactured for chemical warfare and listed by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction, Malaysian police said Friday. Releasing a preliminary toxicology report on Kim Jong-Nam's murder at Kuala Lumpur airport, police revealed the poison used by the assassins was the odourless, tasteless and highly toxic VX. The news brought condemnation from South Korea, which slammed the use of the nerve agent as a "blatant violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and other international norms". Experts in the South said Friday that North Korea has up to 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons stockpiled, including a supply of VX. Kim died on February 13 after being attacked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport by two women, who are seen on CCTV footage shoving something in his face. He suffered a seizure and was dead before he reached hospital. An autopsy revealed traces of VX -- a fast-acting toxin that sparks respiratory collapse and heart failure -- on the dead man's face and in his eyes. Tiny amounts of the poison are enough to kill an adult, whether it is inhaled or absorbed through the skin. "I am outraged that the criminals used such a dangerous chemical in a public area," said Malaysia's Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. It "could have caused mass injuries or even death to other people". One of the two women arrested after the attack fell ill in custody, police said, adding she had been vomiting. National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar has previously said the woman who attacked Kim from behind clearly knew she was carrying out a poison attack, dismissing claims that she thought she was taking part in a TV prank. "The lady was moving away with her hands towards the bathroom," Khalid said earlier this week. "She was very aware that it was toxic and that she needed to wash her hands." The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose member states include Malaysia and South Korea, said Friday the suspected use of a nerve agent was "deeply disturbing". "OPCW stands ready to provide its expertise and technical assistance," it added in a statement. Khalid on Friday said experts would sweep the busy airport terminal where the attack took place for traces of the toxin as well as other locations the women had visited. "We are investigating how (the VX) entered the country," he told reporters. However he added that "if the amount of the chemical brought in was small, it would be difficult for us to detect". A leading regional security expert told AFP it would not have been difficult to get VX into Malaysia in a diplomatic pouch, which would not be subject to regular customs checks. North Korea has previously used the pouches "to smuggle items including contraband and items that would be subjected to scrutiny if regular travel channels were used", said Rohan Gunaratna, the head of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research. Detectives are holding three people -- women from Indonesia and Vietnam, and a North Korean man -- but want to speak to seven others, four of whom are believed to have fled to Pyongyang. One man wanted for questioning, who is believed to be still in Malaysia, is senior North Korean embassy official Hyon Kwang Song. Police have acknowledged that his diplomatic status prevents them from questioning him unless he surrenders himself. North Korea, which has not acknowledged the dead man's identity, has vehemently protested at the investigation, saying Malaysia is in cahoots with its enemies. Its ambassador Kang Chol has said Pyongyang "cannot trust" the Malaysian police to prosecute their probe fairly. He was told Friday to shut up or face the prospect of being kicked out of the country. "The ambassador has been informed of the process involved (in the police investigation) but he continues to be delusional and spew lies and accusations against the government of Malaysia," Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said. A senior Malaysian government official said Kang had been shown a "yellow card", adding: "If he repeats the baseless allegations, he will be expelled." The only known function of VX is as a chemical warfare agent and the US government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes it as the "most potent" of all nerve agents. VX was used by Japan's Aum cult in the 1994 murder of an office worker in Osaka, and in the attempted murder of two other people.
News Article | August 26, 2016
Syrian troops and Islamic State militants carried out chemical weapon attacks in the war-torn country during 2014 and 2015, say the United Nations and a global chemical weapons watchdog group. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s air force was responsible for at least two chlorine gas attacks against opposition-controlled towns in April 2014 and September 2015, say the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The determination follows a year-long joint probe by the two groups. “It is now impossible to deny that the Syrian regime has repeatedly used industrial chlorine as a weapon against its own people,” says White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price. Chlorine’s use as a weapon is prohibited under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty that Syria joined in 2013. That year, Syria agreed to dismantle and destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons. In addition, the UN-OPCW team concludes that the Islamic State was “the only entity with the ability, capability, motive, and the means to use sulfur mustard” in Aleppo on Aug. 21, 2015. Also known as mustard gas, this material too is banned as a chemical warfare agent under the international accord. The UN-OPCW team says that since December 2015, it received more than 130 new reports of chemical weapons use in Syria. It says 41 claim the use of chlorine, 13 sarin, 12 mustard gas, and four VX nerve gas, and 61 of the allegations involve other toxic chemicals. The 15-member UN Security Council is due to discuss the report the week of Aug. 29. It will debate potential responses that could range from a statement of condemnation to referral to the International Criminal Court or additional sanctions.
News Article | February 24, 2017
Malaysian authorities announced today that they have identified VX nerve gas on the face and eyes of Kim Jong Nam, the exiled half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Kim Jon-nam was killed in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on 13 February. Chemical weapons experts are mystified. “I have more questions than answers at this point,” says Richard Guthrie, formerly of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. VX is the most toxic substance known – 10 milligrams of the oily liquid on your skin, less than a drop, is lethal. But Kim took some time to show any symptoms, while the poison was handled by unprotected assailants, and didn’t contaminate other people. The use of the chemical, if confirmed, narrows the list of suspects, however, to someone who has or can make a small amount of VX. It isn’t hard to make, but the precursor chemicals are tightly controlled. North Korea, suspected of organising the killing, is widely thought to have chemical weapons. The International Crisis Group think tank estimates that the state stockpiles 2,500-5,000 tons, including nerve agents such as VX. North Korea helped Syria build its chemical weapons stockpile, which included VX. It is one of only four countries not in the treaty banning chemical weapons. VX has been used for assassination before, notably by the Japanese terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo, which made a small quantity and spritzed it onto the skin of victims using syringes. That is what makes Kim’s case so strange. VX is called a “nerve agent” because it inhibits the acetyl cholinesterase enzyme which breaks down acetylcholine, the chemical that transmits the signal to contract from nerves to muscles. If acetylcholine does not break down, muscles stay helplessly contracted, and victims die of paralysed breathing. They also go into convulsions, froth at the mouth, turn blue and display other tell-tale symptoms. Malaysian police have said two women ambushed Kim in the Kuala Lumpur airport and wiped something on his face. Kim himself is said to have reported liquid smeared on his face that burned his eyes, when he went to the airport medical station for help. CCTV footage shows a woman doing just that. But it then shows Kim walking apparently steadily to solicit help for several minutes, with none of the usual symptoms such as spasms or foaming at the mouth. The attacker was handling a cloth with no apparent protection, not wielding a syringe. The women are then said to have run to a washroom to wash their hands, where one vomited. Both are consistent with VX. But nothing else seems to have happened to them, even though they were apprehended soon after. “Any splash of a tiny droplet anywhere on her body would have resulted in some symptoms,” says chemical weapons expert Jean-Pascal Zanders . “She was jailed, but nothing like that was reported.” The attackers might have been pre-treated with atropine, a drug that blocks the effects of VX. But the medical staff who handled Kim in the ambulance where he later died – with convulsions, which is consistent with VX but also other poisons – would not have been pre-treated. They should have been contaminated, which is common in incidents involving such chemicals, but are not known to have reported any VX symptoms. The chemical might have been enclosed in capsules that only released VX after being smeared on Kim’s face – but again medics should have been affected. Moreover, if it was VX, the airport concourse should have been decontaminated, says Zanders. But Malaysian police told reporters on Friday that the concourse is only being cleaned now. It is also possible that North Korea’s VX is losing its punch. It is thought to have been synthesised some years ago using precursors smuggled from abroad. Tighter controls on those chemicals may have prevented stocks from being replaced, and VX has a limited shelf life. Iraq’s VX, found by UN inspectors after the 1991 Gulf War, degraded rapidly in storage. To be certain, says Zanders, samples from Kim’s remains should be sent to a lab certified by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which enforces the chemical weapons treaty: there is one in neighbouring Singapore.
Hupaylo D.,Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
ACS Symposium Series | Year: 2016
The principles of good science are also the foundation of good international relations, including thorough knowledge of the subject, objective analysis, honesty, good communication, and openness to new ideas. And we know that the world as a whole benefits from sharing scientific achievement, when it is used for the right purposes. Working for an international treaty organization is one way to use science skills while exploring a multitude of cultures and working toward more ethical use of science and technology. From my beginning in a small rural town in the U.S. to working with an international organization made up of 190 countries, a background in chemical engineering has provided skills to aid in assuring that chemistry is used for peaceful purposes, not weapons of war, so that our neighbors and children live in a better world. Most of us are aware of the value of collaboration in scientific discovery and the increased value of bringing together different disciplines of science. Similarly, using scientific principles when bringing together scholars in politics, science, and strategy, is helpful when planning the structure of a long term global community. Cross-discipline studies, cross-continent exposure, and cross-cultural understanding can synergize science as well as politics. It begins with a vision and becomes a reality.
Screening of degradation products, impurities and precursors of chemical warfare agents in water and wet or dry organic liquid samples by in-sorbent tube silylation followed by thermal desorption-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry
Terzic O.,Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
Journal of Chromatography A | Year: 2010
A standard method used by inspection teams of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for preparation of aqueous samples requires several extraction and derivatization steps. This results in tedious and time consuming on-site analysis. A simple thermal desorption-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS) method was developed to analyse for a broad range of degradation products, impurities and precursors of chemical warfare agents (CWA) in water solutions and wet or dry organic liquid samples. The method is fast, sensitive, requires only microliter volumes of sample and enables the simultaneous determination of a wide range of compounds with widely differing polarity, volatility and reactivity. The applicability of the method was demonstrated by successful analysis of five OPCW Official Proficiency Test samples. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
Terzic O.,Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons |
Swahn I.,Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons |
Cretu G.,Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons |
Palit M.,Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons |
Mallard G.,Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
Journal of Chromatography A | Year: 2012
A sensitive gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) based analytical method was developed for detection of the chemical warfare agents (CWA) and related compounds in air/vapor samples. The method uses a Tenax TA packed GC liner as an air/vapor sampling tube and Programmable Temperature-Vaporization (PTV) GC inlet as the thermal desorber. This approach eliminates secondary focusing step and allows transfer of desorbed analytes as sharp bands directly to the head of GC column. Use of a Peltier element for rapid cooling eliminates need for an external coolant. Minimal logistic and hardware needs make the method relatively inexpensive and especially suitable for a mobile laboratory. The limits of detection (LODs) of 0.8-2.9. ng on tube for selected nerve and blister agents were achieved in the full scan MS mode. Simple derivatization method applied for detection of Lewisites 1 and 2 did not affect simultaneous analysis of other agents. The method was extensively evaluated with authentic CWA during the field trainings of the inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The environmental area and personal samples were collected for a semi-quantitative determination of averaged airborne CWA concentration levels. © 2012 Elsevier B.V..
Determination of Lewisites and their hydrolysis products in aqueous and multiphase samples by in-sorbent tube butyl thiolation followed by thermal desorption-gas chromatography-full scan mass spectrometry
Terzic O.,Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons |
Bartenbach S.,Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons |
de Voogt P.,University of Amsterdam |
de Voogt P.,KWR Watercycle Research Institute
Journal of Chromatography A | Year: 2013
A rapid, sensitive and robust method for determining the chemical warfare agents Lewisites and their hydrolysis products in aqueous and multiphase sample matrices has been developed as an extension of the previous work (Terzic, 2010 ). In the new method, the acidification of the sample and use of 1-butanethiol derivatisation instead of trimethylsilylation significantly improved both, qualitative and quantitative aspects of targeted analysis of Lewisite species. The limit of detection was ≤100. ng/ml in full scan MS, with sample volume of 10. μl only. The whole sample preparation procedure took 9. min, while the gas chromatography (GC)-mass spectrometry (MS) analysis cycle was under 22. min. The method deals efficiently with the multiphase sample matrices offering a fast and simple alternative to the conventional approach of liquid-liquid extraction combined with derivatisation. Multiphase sample matrices can be encountered or formed when preparing environmental, industrial, waste or decontamination waste samples for a GC-MS analysis. The applicability and robustness of the method were demonstrated by the successful analysis of 11 years old OPCW Official Proficiency Test sample and a triphase liquid sample. The same equipment set-up, tubes and derivatising agent have been used for collection, preparation and analysis of Lewisites in air samples (Terzic et al., 2012 ). The minimal logistic requirements, ease of operation, versatility and other features aforementioned, make this method an excellent choice for an environmental or forensic field laboratory. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
PubMed | Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
Type: | Journal: Journal of chromatography. A | Year: 2012
A sensitive gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) based analytical method was developed for detection of the chemical warfare agents (CWA) and related compounds in air/vapor samples. The method uses a Tenax TA packed GC liner as an air/vapor sampling tube and Programmable Temperature-Vaporization (PTV) GC inlet as the thermal desorber. This approach eliminates secondary focusing step and allows transfer of desorbed analytes as sharp bands directly to the head of GC column. Use of a Peltier element for rapid cooling eliminates need for an external coolant. Minimal logistic and hardware needs make the method relatively inexpensive and especially suitable for a mobile laboratory. The limits of detection (LODs) of 0.8-2.9ng on tube for selected nerve and blister agents were achieved in the full scan MS mode. Simple derivatization method applied for detection of Lewisites 1 and 2 did not affect simultaneous analysis of other agents. The method was extensively evaluated with authentic CWA during the field trainings of the inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The environmental area and personal samples were collected for a semi-quantitative determination of averaged airborne CWA concentration levels.