Question: How Do Chemical Weapons Smell?
You may have a mental image of a chemical agent as some greenish vapor with a pungent, unpleasant smell. Are you surprised to learn most chemical agents are colorless and odorless? Many have characteristic odors, but some actually smell nice.
Answer: Many blister agents smell a bit like plants. Other agents may have pungent odors, yet most chemical weapons have no scent at all. Here's a list of some chemical agents and their... bouquets:
- Sulfur Mustard - includes mustard gas, usually odorless and colorless in pure form but yellowish-brown with an odor reminiscent of the mustard plant, garlic, or horseradish when used in warfare
- Chlorine Gas - pale greenish gas with a suffocating, unpleasant odor, similar to chlorine bleach
- 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate (QNB or NATO BZ or Iraqi Agent 15) - odorless incapacitating agent
- Lewisite - WWI blister agent that smells strongly of geraniums
- Phosgene Oxime - blister agent with an irritating smell, though somewhat of mown hay or cut green corn
- Sarin - extremely toxic odorless nerve agent
- VX - probably the most toxic nerve agent, odorless
- Soman - nerve gas that smells like Vicks VapoRub or rotting fruit, depending on who you ask
- Tabun - highly toxic nerve agent with a faint fruity smell, though odorless when pure
- Zyklon B - hydrogen cyanide-containing blood agent, famous for its use in Nazi death camps, which has a bitter almond odor (not everyone has the ability to smell it though)
- Hydrogen Sulfide - blood agent that smells of rotten eggs
- Adamsite or DM - odorless riot control agent that causes vomiting and sneezing
- CS Gas - tear gas, odorless