To combat chemical and biological hazards, an emergency response team’s first response might sound like this. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.
ambience: Decontamination foam being sprayed
Mark Tucker, an engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, has been working on the development of a spray foam that could be used quickly and effectively in the event of toxic spills or even terrorist attacks with biological weapons.
” We wanted to make something simple because we didn’t want to have fire fighting personnel have to have to make all these decisions in the field, we want them just to be able to walk out there and spray our foam and kill or neutralize whatever’s out there. ”
Up until now, many decontamination treatments were made of harsh chemicals that could be dangerous to those who handled them. So, scientists were happy to discover that they could do the job with chemicals not unlike what you’d find in the average person’s bathroom.
“The constituents in our foam are very similar to what you would find in hair conditioner and toothpaste, a combination of those two products, so you can see it’s very low corrosive and low toxic properties. The chemical properties are almost identical but not quite the same.”
Not only is the foam safe for humans, it’s also inexpensive — a surprisingly simple solution to a difficult challenge.
“I think it’s really neat that we’ve been able to take some fairly ordinary chemicals and in the right mixture solve a problem.”
According to Sandia, laboratory tests have shown that the foam can kill anthrax bacteria and neutralize mustard and Sarin gasses in a matter of minutes. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.
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