CBRNe News February 2008
Gwyn Winfield examines the latest news in the world of CBRNE
Covered with Gore for 50 years
PPE manufacturer WL Gore celebrated 50 years of trading on 1 January. The company which started life as a wire and cable manufacturer now has divisions for medical, industrial and electronic products. It was also voted a dashed fine company by Fortune magazine, which voted it the 15th best place to work in its ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’. This is the 11th consecutive year it has been placed.
Kaercher Futuretech announced that their website is now available in Arabic as well as English, French, German and Spanish. CBRNe World’s editor is still holding out for the Welsh version.
Bit of a Nipah in the air
A new drug developed by Weill Cornell Medical College in New York is said to be able to cure the Nipah and Hendra viruses. While the transmission process is still misunderstood, they have found a way to block the virus from entering human cells – which can lead to encephalitis.
Burn, baby, burn
BGP Inc has designed a prototype mobile incineration unit that would be able to deal with the contaminated carcasses after culls from Foot-and-Mouth disease or avian flu. The device is designed to deal with the high volume created and will be a welcome relief from the large open pits used in the UK during the Foot-and-Mouth outbreak.
Allen Vanguard has released a digital version of their mini UAV, the Vanguard. It now has a new command console with plug-and-play functionality and full interoperability with the larger ROV Defender. The attraction of the digital architecture is that it allows new devices to be added to the Vanguard without it having to go into the workshop to be fitted and calibrated. This represents a push from Allen Vanguard to become the “global centre of excellence for the R&D and production of ROVs” – a title they will find many other companies, such as Telerob, iRobot, Foster Miller, etc, also vying for.
Are you my PAPR?
Avon has had its C420 Positive Air Powered Respirator (PAPR) approved by Niosh for their range of respirators. It is aimed at the civilian market and as such has been cleared for use with their FM12 and C50 masks. The PAPR provides powered air up to 115lpm, which does provide some comfort and ease but lacks the sophistication of breath responsive demand PAPRs – such as SEA Groups SE40.
Big BISA’s little brother
The gaping hole left by the cancellation of the UK’s BISA [See CBRNe World’s Leader in Autumn 2007 for the full story] has been temporarily plugged by an upgrade to the existing Bio, Rad, Chem Information System (BRACIS) system. The award follows a successful evaluation from DSTL Porton Down and, most importantly, will allow the UK to remain interoperable within Nato’s standards. While the system improves on the existing system, it is not (yet at least) able to provide the full functionality that the BISA required, and the search for “Big BISA” still remains.
Ahura Scientific, manufacturer of the First Defender raman detector, have created a new FTIR detector, the TruDefender FT (would the missing ‘e’ have offended the youth market?). Raman and FTIR have long been recognised as a perfect pairing, covering up for each other’s weaknesses, and previously customers would have had to match up First Defender with another FTIR – such as Smith’s Hazmat ID. Unlike Hazmat ID, however, TruDefender will fit into the pocket of a jacket, although it uses the same user interface to cut down on training. With Bruker Daltonics going after one end of Smiths Detection’s market and Ahura nibbling at the other, it is shaping up to be an interesting time.
New VP on the Nanoscale
David Brotton has joined Nanoscale Corporation as VP Marketing and Business Development from a background in the speciality chemicals industry. NanoScale produces Fast-Act, ChemKlenz and OdorKlenz, and everyone is said to be very excited about Mr Brotton’s appearance.
NFPA 2008 out
A new edition of the 1999 NFPA standard has been announced. The new 2008 edition sets standards for CBRN protective ensembles after it was found that the 2003 edition did not define products in line with user requirements. No doubt the race is now on within PPE companies to produce the first 2008-compliant items.
By Osiris’ Beard!
Osiris Therapeutics, producer of Prochymal, is the latest recipient of a DoD Med CM windfall. Prochymal, which repairs gastrointestinal injuries caused by radiation poisoning (useful in the story below), was awarded a $224.7 million contract to develop a stockpile. The US military have also switched from the Smallpox vaccine Dryvax to Acambis’ ACAM2000, all unused Dryvax will be destroyed after Feb 29, 2008 – the US vaccinates about 15,000 people a month against smallpox. While Europe might whinge, the gap between the US and the rest of the world in vaccines and Med CM is becoming enormous.
Cake bad for you – official!
Deliberately buried in much of the world’s media was the story of the thallium Rota attack on the Baghdad Airforce club. Thallium was one of Saddam’s assassination weapons of choice – a toxic, radioactive soft metal that causes a range of symptoms leading to death. Clearly someone has found out where some is. A “disgruntled” former employee – a sports coach – returned to the club to make amends, with the gift of two cakes. By chance the cakes weren’t eaten at the club, and two officers decided to take them home for their family. A daughter of each of the officers ate enough of the cake to kill them, and nine other members of their families were seriously ill – though no others are expected to die (though it is hard to get further information on this because of the fear of copycat attacks). CBRNe World sees this as a far more dangerous situation than the death of Litvenenko, which was a “serious” assassination, rather than this amateur scattergun approach. No one knows how much Thallium is in Iraq, and while it might not be all over the international media you can be sure that red force will be very interested in this. CBRNe World is trying to find out more facts…
School’s out and in…
The US Army Chemical School is dead; long live the US Army CBRN School! The US has had a Chemical School (or Chemical Warfare School) since 1918, and in line with the concerns of the Chief of Staff of the Army, General George Casey, about WMD the school has changed to reflect the threat. The hope is that the new name will capture the breadth of training and skills at the School and stop confusion about its role at home and abroad. Who will be the first to open a CBRNe school?
Win some, lose some?
New York seems to be pushing ahead and taking CBRN detection seriously. Whether it has anything to do with the presence of Richard Falkenrath, a Deputy Commissioner for Counter Terrorism in NYPD and a former White House aide for homeland security, is open for speculation, but the city is pushing for more next-generation Biowatch detectors and seeking to cut down on public ownership of “CBRN” detectors. The city is keen to get their hands on the new LLNL Autonomous Pathogen Detection System, which is a better system than the current one – Washington is said to be “blocking” this and offering resistance (an end to the love affair with costly, unattended bio-detection?). Meanwhile, NYPD is also trying to cut down on false alarms generated by private individuals owning detectors which forces them to follow bad leads. The NYPD is keen that anyone trying to own a detector has to get a permit from the City Council. A good idea, but whether the cop exists who could ignore an assay strip reading positive for anthrax because their paperwork is not in order is another matter.
You can take that to the bank!
Saeed Jalili, Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator, told Members of the European Parliament that chemical weapons had no place in Iran’s defence doctrine. As testament, he referred to the fact that Iran had refused to use chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war. Quite what he made of the fact that Iran sporadically used chemical weapons after a secret order from Khomeini in 1987 and 1988 was not noted. Clearly, the fact that Khomeini later denied the use of such weapons was good enough for him – and if it’s good enough for him, well, it should be for the rest of us too.
Will anyone in the US who has not made ricin please raise their hand?
A Massachusetts man in court for a firearms charge has allegedly mailed letters to a newspaper and prosecutor and threatened to attack the courthouse where he was being held. When authorities investigated Michael Crookers threats they found a quantity of processed ricin, castor beans and rosary peas (needed to make abrin). Yes, ricin and abrin are toxic and lethal, but do they really count as a WMD or even a WME? If we continue to give them the allure that that classification brings then maybe, just maybe, people will continue to try and manufacture them…
NBC in Peru
The arrival of APEC in November has forced the Peru National Police to face the threat from CBRN weapons. Peru has formed the first NBC Brigade to deal with this. CBRNe World will try and keep you posted.
Porton Down seeks to make amends
The 360 surviving veterans of Porton Down’s offensive testing – those people who thought they were helping to find a cure for the common cold – have been offered £3million by the MoD to settle their claim, along with an apology. Some veterans have been upset by the fact that it requires unanimity to take the payment which, bearing in mind that some of them are more affected and upset than others, might be difficult. While it puts the ball back into the veterans’ court, it does show official remorse for a shady, shabby (though arguably necessary) period.
The Sunshine Project, an arms control group who has made life difficult for a range of organisations involved in biological research – and some in biological weapon research – has suspended its operations. Most recently it scooped the lax oversight of BSL3/4 labs in the US but had also done work on labs around the world. It was sometimes a difficult organisation (by all accounts), but a good group for keeping people honest. It will be missed.