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Detection of Toxicant(s) on Building Surfaces Following Chemical Attack

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Abstract:A critical step prior to reoccupation of any facility following a chemical attack is monitoring for toxic compounds on surfaces within that facility. Low level detection of toxicant(s) is necessary to ensure that these compounds have been eliminated after building decontamination. This requires developing a sensitive, rapid, and systematic sampling protocol that can be used to measure low levels of toxic compounds on building surfaces. Although the military and other organizations have performed research on traditional chemical weapons, many industrial chemicals may be used as nontraditional chemical agents. For example, many pesticides are readily available to almost anyone, including potential terrorists. Although pesticides are typically not as potent as traditional chemical weapons, the release of such compounds into a building would certainly cause panic to the occupants and would present a chronic health concern if not properly removed. However, limited research has been performed with respect to such misuse of these compounds.

Since the compounds that might be encountered in a chemical attack are diverse, the surface sampling protocol will be developed using a variety of industrial chemicals including pesticides. The selection of these compounds will be based on factors such as amounts manufactured worldwide, usage, and availability. Some classes of pesticides (e.g., organophosphate insecticides) will also be used because of their structural similarity to compounds that have been developed as chemical weapons. The procedure also needs to be applicable to a variety of building surfaces, such as walls, floors, ceilings, office furniture, and duct work. Therefore, different types of building surfaces will be contaminated with the study compounds at known concentrations and subsequently sampled. Surface sampling will consist of wipes with organic solvent moistened gauze pads, which were developed from previous EPA-NERL sponsored pesticide surface monitoring studies. Analytical methods will be optimized for detecting and measuring the study compounds in extracts from the gauze wipes.

This project will result in the production of protocols for conducting surface wipes to collect toxicant(s) from contaminated building surfaces, as well as the detection and quantification of compounds captured in these surface wipes. Since the selected toxic compounds in this study will encompass a wide range of physical and chemical properties, the techniques could be applied to a wide variety of industrial chemicals and other chemical agents. These protocols and analytical procedures will be available for use by EPA and its partners in an emergency response to chemical terrorism.
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Citation:Bernard, C. E., J. N. Morgan, and L. J. Melnyk. Detection of Toxicant(s) on Building Surfaces Following Chemical Attack. Presented at Science Forum 2003, Washington, DC, May 5-7, 2003.
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Contact: Mary P. O'Bryant - (919)-541-4871 or obriant.mary@epa.gov
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Division: Microbiological & Chemical Exposure Assessment Division
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Branch: Chemical Exposure Research Branch
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Product Type: Abstrct/Oral
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Presented: 05/05/2003
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Last Updated on Monday, October 22, 2007
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