How Can The Presence of Ricin or Other Chemical,
Biological, Nuclear Agents Be Detected?
- A wide
variety of detection equipment is available commercially. Tests, detectors,
and monitors of varying sensitivity (lowest level detectable) and
specificity (ability to distinguish target from similar compounds) have been
developed and/or used by the armed forces to identify the nerve agents and
There are now handheld
bio-detection systems increasingly available to emergency services
personnel, which can give results within around 15 minutes of the agent
being picked up in the air-sampling unit.
The BTATM test strip allows
screening for anthrax, ricin, botulinum toxin and staphilococcus enterotoxin B (SEB)
(Photo: Tetracore Inc and Alexeter Technologies LLC 2001)
detection equipment currently used by Hazmat teams varies considerably by
locality. For large metropolitan areas, current detectors range from
adequate instrumentation to absolutely no capability for chemical warfare
Agency Monitors (CAM) can be utilized to detect various chemical, biological
and nuclear agents.
- The release
of any chemicals or toxic materials will typically be categorized as a
hazardous materials (Hazmat) incident. The response to a Hazmat incident is
somewhat standardized across the country. Hazmat teams will possess a
majority of the locality's chemical detection equipment.
- Hazmat teams
are routinely equipped with a variety of chemical detectors and monitoring
kits, primarily chemical-specific tests indicating only the presence or
absence of the suspected chemical or class of chemical. A negative
response of the test means only that a specific substance is not present in
significant quantity; a positive response says nothing about the possible
presence of other hazardous agents.
- The M9 paper and the
M256 kit are simple and inexpensive devices that enable responders to
rapidly detect classical chemical warfare agents. The photo-ionization
detector, the ion mobility detector, the surface acoustic wave detector, and
the colorimetric tubes give medical personnel an ability to deal with a
wider array of chemicals.
National Terror Alert Resource & Information Center 2003