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    Keeping the Powder Dry

    Keeping the Powder Dry

    Photo By Diane Williams | Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Casey Godwin, aircrew flight equipment specialist, 327th...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Chemical and Biological Technologies Department

    Researchers are developing new immediate skin decontamination prototype devices for the Joint Force with the goal of having fewer logistical and operational limitations and a lower cost than the Reactive Skin Decontamination Lotion (RSDL) Kit that is part of regularly issued decontamination equipment. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) Chemical and Biological Technologies Department in its role as the Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO) for the Chemical and Biological Defense Program is working with the U.S. Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center (DEVCOM CBC), the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom, and industry partners to develop and test improved, low-cost, skin decontamination prototype devices.

    During a chemical warfare agent (CWA) attack, Joint Force members enter what is called Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) 4 by donning a complete set of protective garments including a mask, overgarment, boots, and gloves. Getting into this apparel takes time and risks skin exposure to dangerous chemical agents. If warfighters contact chemical agents, they must immediately decontaminate their skin to minimize any hazardous health effects and continue their mission. Currently, the Joint Force can effectively decontaminate nerve and blister agents on skin using RSDL, but it has a limited shelf life, restrictive storage requirements, and high cost.

    The new skin decontamination prototype will be designed to overcome current logistical and operational limitations by likely having a longer shelf life, unrestrictive storage requirements, and improved immediate decontamination for the full spectrum of CWAs on skin. Other research seeking improved solutions for wound decontamination in separate but parallel efforts may overlap or complement the skin decontamination prototypes.

    DEVCOM CBC and the University of Hertfordshire began testing candidate materials for an improved skin decontamination solution and saw that zirconium hydroxide powder efficiently neutralized chemical agents, which led the research team to choose it to develop for prototype devices. Zirconium hydroxide powder is an inexpensive, commercially available chemical that does not dissolve in water and can absorb and reactively destroy chemical agents. DTRA-JSTO has successfully used zirconium hydroxide powder to develop new chemical filters and equipment decontaminants.

    Researchers are investigating zirconium hydroxide by measuring the amount of chemical agent absorbed and destroyed by the powder or released into the environment (called off-gassing) to determine exactly how much powder is needed for effective decontamination and compatibility with current Joint Force equipment. Experiments include using laboratory skin surrogates and specialized chambers called diffusion cells, which measure the amount of chemical agent that penetrates skin, and the efficiency of removal by prototype technologies. The researchers will study zirconium hydroxide powder performance in laboratory-simulated extreme hot and cold environments.

    Current research is looking at how much loose zirconium hydroxide powder applied to the skin is needed for thorough decontamination. The goal is to use the zirconium hydroxide powder in a form, such as the M295 mitt, for immediate decontamination of exposed skin with similar results as the loose powder. A prototype mitt can be used immediately to absorb chemical agents from skin and reactively destroy CWAs, providing improved immediate decontamination in all environmental conditions, and enabling safe and easy disposal of the mitt.

    The next phase of the project is to develop prototype devices using zirconium hydroxide that can be readily used by the Joint Force, potentially including mitts, wipes, and gloves. Industry partners will design prototypes that can:

    • Be stored, carried, and used in a variety of operational environments

    • Rapidly absorb CWA gross contamination within 2 to 15 minutes

    • Neutralize the CWAs

    DTRA-JSTO will present this new skin-decontamination concept at the 2022 Chemical Biological Operational Assessment Concept Tent to collect warfighters’ feedback on the design of an ideal form and its use in terms of time requirements and application methods.

    The decontamination effectiveness and safety data produced from this program will support companies submitting a medical device application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for consideration and approval.

    POC: Bernadette Higgins, Ph.D.,



    Date Taken: 05.13.2022
    Date Posted: 05.13.2022 16:24
    Story ID: 420709
    Location: FT. BELVOIR, VA, US

    Web Views: 287
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