A set of ultra-strength cleaners for use in the aftermath of a terrorist attack have been created by chemists and military scientists in the USA.
Study lead George Wagner indicates the cleaners are so tough, they can neutralize nerve gas, mustard gas, radioactive isotopes and anthrax. However, he also said they were non-toxic and based on ingredients found in foods, cosmetics and other consumer products, explaining the serious drawbacks of chlorine and lye-based decontamination agents.
Apart from being potentially hazardous, they can react with chemical weapons and materials in the environment to form new toxic substances. Decontamination of a large area by the military with them would result in a run-off that could cause harm to people and the environment. Which is why, military scientists developed the Decon Green suite of decontamination agents.
The main ingredients in Decon Green formula are peroxides, which are used in many household cleaners and whitening toothpaste. Peroxides are mixed with bicarbonates or other non-toxic bases to bolster their effectiveness, a combination producing peroxyanions that are highly reactive ions capable of cleaning just about anything, including ensuring chemical weapons, like nerve gas break down completely.
Put through a battery of tests, Wagner and his team concluded each formula could break down toxic chemicals, rather than simply washing them away, proving Decon Green to effectively kill anthrax spores and remove radioactive cesium and cobalt from smooth surfaces.
One of the formulas tested is capable of working in sub-zero temperatures, while another powder that is easily transportable can be mixed with water at the scene of an emergency.
All ingredients in liquid Decon Green but one are to be found in food, cosmetics, hygiene products or vitamin pills.
A detailed evaluation of the cleansers appears in ACS’ Industrial Engineering and Chemistry Research, a bi-monthly journal.