Decontamination measures for chemical warfare agents

Chemical warfare agents (CWAs) are a real threat, as the assassinations at KL Airport (2017) and Salisbury (2018) have shown in recent years. Unfortunately, due to the current armed conflicts in Europe, it may remain a topic of interest for the foreseeable future.

From an analytical point of view, detecting high concentrations of CWA in the air at the time of and immediately after an attack is relatively simple, even with portable devices.

But confirming that huge surfaces (e.g. airport floor) are safe and clean after a standardized decontamination procedure is currently not possible due to the lack of proper analytical instrumentation.

IONICON Proton-Transfer-Reaction–Time-Of-Flight (PTR-TOF) is a real-time direct injection trace gas analysis technique with exceptional sensitivity, selectivity and limits of detection (LoD).

Together with the owner Automated Measurement and Data Evaluation (AME) software, no trained researcher is needed to operate the PTR-TOF and to decipher the data obtained. AME “translates” scientific information into direct graphical readings of compound concentration. Therefore, IONICON PTR-TOF is the perfect tool for real-time trace gas monitoring and control.

Image Credit: IONICON Analytik

Results of CWA measurement campaigns

In the majority of the scientific literature on CWA measurements, analogues have been used due to the limited access to live agents, even for analytical purposes. Therefore, the company took the compact PTR-TOF devices on measurement campaigns in certified facilities in Austria and the Czech Republic.

Real-time detection of CWAs with PTR-TOF.

Real-time detection of CWAs with PTR-TOF. Image Credit: IONICON Analytik

In the first campaign, the patent (EP3503161; US11342171) NH4+ The reactive ion technique has proven to be particularly advantageous for sensitive CWA detection. Even with the very compact PTR-TOF QB model (two stackable and separable 19 cubes), 1 s LoD between 10 and 30 pptv (10-12) were identified for nitrogen mustard, sarin, soman, tabun, VX, and cyclosarin CWAs.

For the second campaign, a high mass resolution PTR-TOF 6000 was used to examine residual gas-phase concentrations of CWA above many surfaces (from metal and glass to pigskin) before and after decontamination with various common decontamination agents.

It was found that after treatment with a few of these agents and only for entirely smooth surfaces, no residual contamination could be detected.

Results like these confirm that IONICON PTR-TOF is ideal for real-time verification of the absence of highly toxic compounds, such as CWAs.

This information has been extracted, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by IONICON Analytik.

For more information on this source, please visit IONICON Analytics.