Science and Technology News

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In Defense of Decontamination: How to Clean Up After a Biological Incident

Remember the 2001 anthrax letters? The 1918-19 flu pandemic? Our near miss with the H1N1 flu? The British experience with foot and mouth disease?

When natural and man-made diseases occur, careful cleanup (or decontamination) is essential — especially, when it pertains to bioterrorism or natural pandemics and diseases. Biological decontamination is not only hazardous, but technically demanding and must be complete and thorough to minimize public risk.

To prepare for situations like this, the Department of Defense (DOD) works closely with federal, state and local agencies. With so many different levels of government involvement, establishing an effective platform for communicating ideas and solutions can be challenging. To address this challenge and establish a collaborative environment, the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Information Analysis Center (CBRNIAC) organized and led an interagency forum on biological decontamination.

During the latest forum this past September, CBRNIAC engaged experts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Guard Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Homeland Security, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, U.S. Public Health Service, and Naval Surface Warfare Center to explore clean-up requirements, standards (how clean is clean enough?), and useful technologies. Throughout the forum, the importance of consistency developed as a theme — consistency in how agencies approach the development of materials, processes and the collection and analysis of pertinent data.

At the end of the day, over 100 interagency attendees had taken critical steps in creating a shared lexicon and developing standard approaches; armed with the knowledge of best practices in biological cleanup, the interagency group continues to enhance preparedness to ensure our safety.

Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Information Analysis Center (CBRNIAC) is one of ten Information Analysis Centers (IACs) chartered by DOD and managed by the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC). CBRNIAC is the DOD Center of Excellence responsible for acquiring, archiving, analyzing, synthesizing, and disseminating scientific and technical information related to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defense.

Interested in learning more or working with CBRNIAC on an upcoming effort? CBRNIAC can be reached via the IAC website.

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