All posts by wonyong01pd2014

Syria’s Chemical Weapon

August 21st, was just another ordinary day for me to go home early. No baseball practice, no after school activities no nothing. It was great. I got back home and as usual opened my laptop to read some up-to-date headlines on my Korean portal website. The most viewed news was called Syrian Chemical attack. So, I was interested because I knew that chemical weapons are banned internationally. The situation was devastating. It killed thousands of people and apparently they used forbidden chemical weapons. This fact would not have put much impact in my thought until I saw that most of them were innocent civilians. Now, to look at more detailed account of this situation, I browsed BBC. “US secretary of State John Kerry says the US knows the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack in Damascus, which he says killed 1429 people”. Here “the dead included 426 children” (Kerry, 2013). This attack is still full of ambiguity. “The debate continues over exactly what happened and who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Syrians in the early hours of 21 August.” America including other Western nations claims the regime as culprit, but the regime it self is denying and is saying it was the rebels. Now I thought, chemicals can be a serious trauma, so I decided to look at this critical chemical that ruined the lives of many.

(Ya Libnan) Syria Chemical Attack
(Ya Libnan) Syria Chemical Attack

So what kind of chemical weapon is used in Syria specifically and why are they so devastating to human health? Because, nobody was at the place of chemical attack, it is hard to articulate what chemical was used, but “the supply could include sarin, mustard, and VX gases” (Yan, 2012) one can estimate by the magnitude of death, these chemical gases were used.

(Britannica Image Quest)
(Britannica Image Quest)

What is Sarin? “Sarin is a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. They are similar to certain kinds of insecticides (insect killers) called organophosphates in terms of how they work and what kind of harmful effects they cause. However, nerve agents are much more potent than organophosphate pesticides.” (CDC). It is composed of C4H10FO2P and how does it effect is by blocking enzyme acetyl cholinesterase, found in synapse and nerve endings. It breaks hydrolyses the neurotransmitter so that the never impulse is only passed down once attained. When enzyme is inhibited acetylcholine accumulates at nerve endings giving one to be paralyzed and to asphyxiation. (CDC). Sarin is danger because it is like “fly like a butterfly, but sting like a bee”, it is colorless and odor less. So one must look for the symptoms to detect whether they are exposed to Sarin or not. However, there is a step called a decontamination, which neutralizes the contaminated air by Sarin or other chemically dangerous gas. Hydrolysis reaction is used. Here it is a reaction with water. How does this reaction decontaminate? Because Sarin hydrolyzes with water readily and half-life in water is known as 5.4 hours using alkaline solutions would decontaminate way faster. (cbwinfo). Therefore, towelettes moistened with NaOH dissolved in water, phenol, and ammonia would be a good way to decontaminate (CDC).


Economic implication is deadly. Some say the chemicals are easy to acquire, but it will be hard to make it. However, all one need to make these deadly chemical is just a chemistry lab in schools. Moreover, how to make it is not available on any website, and this shows how governments and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking a great care to prevent terrorism. As it happened in Japan twice in 1994 and 1995, one cannot be always sure that one is safe as long as one has a handkerchief with NaOH to prevent themselves from these attacks.

Works Cited:

Sarin Nerve Gas Molecule. [Photograph]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest.

CBWInfo. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Yan, H. (2012, 12 7). Syria’s chemical weapon potential: What is it, and what are the health risks? . Retrieved from

Hanna, J. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Kerry, J. (2013, August 30). Kerry: Syria chemical weapons attack killed 1,429. Retrieved from

CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Want to be beautiful? Get a Botox… But is it safe?

Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest
Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest

It was not long ago that I reached news that cosmetics were one of the major economic markets in South Korea. Apparently, there are increasing numbers of people who wants to get a surgery in South Korea. Then, some days later I’ve gotten the news, a Chinese travel agency advertisement caught my eyes. The advertisement showed a “Cosmetics Travel to Korea” and I thought that cosmetics are one of the most important elements of human life. Therefore, I thought of investigating the role of chemistry behind the cosmetics.

People want to become pretty, but the genetics always hinders their wants. As the human civilization entered the 21-century, cosmetics became more important. The cosmetics have developed throughout, and now humans can change their appearance without any physical surgeries. It is the invention of Botox.

Well then why Botox out of all of the cosmetic goods? That is because, Botox is the most common and has some history, and it has been commonly used and popular.

According to Botox is mainly consisting of botulinum toxin, and this botulinum toxin is a form of a protein that is connected with disulfide. During this process, every 50 kilodaltons of protein mixes with every 100 kilodaltons of disulfide and create botulinum toxin. However, most of the times, bacteria produce this substance. A bacteria called Clostridium botulinum when entered into human body, stays into the intestines of humans and produces this toxin and most of the time causes botulism. The function of the botulinum toxin is basically hinders the neurotransmission of muscle contraction, so that muscle contraction does not occur and eventually the muscle gets paralyzed.

Now there is a chemistry part in this substance called botulinum toxin. “The toxin, a zinc proteinase, acts by preventing the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from vesicles at the neuromuscular junction. As a proteinase, the toxin cleaves one or more of the fusion proteins by which the vesicles release acetylcholine. In the absence of acetylcholine, contraction of the muscle–or in some cases, the activity of a gland–is temporarily inhibited.” (Ember, 2005). This is an actual chemical process that creates the effect. To sum up, botulinum toxins prevent acetylcholine, CH3COOCH2CH2N+(CH3)3).

Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest, Botulinum toxin molecule
Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest, Botulinum toxin molecule

Now the fearful part of botox and botulium toxin is that 12 to 16 nano grams of botulium toxin can kill a man of 60 kilograms. Therefore, if you think about it, you can kill basically all the human beings on earth with only 130 grams of botulinum toxin. Because of this trait of Botox, it was once tried to develop as a bio-chemical weapon during World War II.

However, today its uses are beneficial. It is used to cure crossed-eyes, excessive sweating, muscle convulsion (widely known as muscle cramp), some Parkinson’s disease, and etc… And most importantly, in cosmetic Botox is widely used. Moreover, as I know its danger of killing humans, I researched how much does every dose of Botox does it usually contain. In a bottle of Botox, it contains 100U and in every each one shot of Botox on human’s face does not exceed 100U. Moreover, for it to kill a human being, it needs 2800 to 3500 U of Botox. Therefore, in this 100U, contains about 0.4 to 0.6 of botulium toxin. However, it is not still 100% safe to use Botox. Benefits of using Botox overwhelms the risk of using Botox, so it is right to be used, but it still needs careful supervision that if someone uses more than 100U.


Yeo In Hyung (2012.03.19). Botox. General format. Retrieved from

Lois Ember (2005.06.20). Botox. Retrieved from

Botulinum Toxin A, Molecular Model. [Photograph]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest.

Medical Equipment. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest.