Scientists in Texas, California, and Maryland are reporting development of high-tech "wipes" that are capable of quickly decontaminating people and equipment exposed to a broad range of military and industrial chemicals, including the deadly blister agent known as "mustard." The next generation wipes, which are a major step toward a universal personal decontamination system for nearly any toxic or hazardous chemical, could help save the lives of soldiers and civilians.
Seshadri Ramkumar and colleagues note that the military long has used powders and liquids to decontaminate soldiers and equipment exposed to chemical warfare agents. But powders, such as activated carbon, can disperse into the air and damage the lungs, while water-based and reactive decontamination liquids target only a limited set of chemicals or can damage electronic equipment. Better materials are needed, the scientists say.
In the new study, the scientists describe development of a new fabric-based "wipe" composed of a layer of activated carbon sandwiched between layers of absorbent fibers. The researchers evaluated the ability of the new fabric to absorb and adsorb sulfur mustard, a toxic liquid that causes skin blistering, and compared the results to activated carbon particles and a standard military decontamination kit that uses powdered carbon mixed with other materials.
The wipes were better than particulate carbon alone and as effective as the military decontamination kit, the researchers say, noting that the flexible and non-particulate wipes show promise for decontaminating a wide range of surfaces and toxic or hazardous chemicals.
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