Chemical and Biological Weapons Neutralization Foam
Created at Sandia National Laboratories of Albuquerque, New Mexico, chemists have reported that by combining the surface-active wetting agents of hair-conditioning creams and oxidizers such as sodium bicarbonate and hydrogen hydroxide found in toothpaste, they have developed a foam capable of swiftly rendering a number of chemical and biological agents harmless, including: nerve and mustard gases, disease viruses and bacteria like anthrax.
Dr. Tadros of Sandia points out that "A shot of nerve gas or anthrax bacillus on, say, the 22nd floor of the Empire State Building, could be confined to the point of release and neutralized within an hour." Unlike some protective sprays, the foam will leave no dangerous residue and would not harm most office materials. Ideally, foam dispensers could be combined with a building's sprinkler system.
However, people whose skin have been touched by even a drop of nerve gas could not be saved by the foam, as nerve agents penetrate the skin and kill quickly. The foam is expected to be useful ONLY for decontaminating spaces or the outer surfaces of protective suits worn by rescue personnel.
The effect of the foam on the toxic agents like sarin, soman and tabun, among others, is to split the chemical bonds in these substances by phosphates or sulphides, causing the poisonous molecules to fall apart into harmless fragments. Sandia scientists, unsure of the true mechanism involved, speculate that the efficient destruction of bacterial spores by the foam may be the result of the foam simply breaching the protein protective walls of the spores, allowing the oxidizers to enter and kill them. [1999 - Compiled from article written by Malcolme W. Browne for the New York Times, Science Section.]
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