The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) earlier this month awarded a two-year research and development contract to the University of Hertfordshire in England for research on mass casualty decontamination. The total value of the award is $5,975,494.
The university has conducted similar research for the European Union and is generally recognized as the leading research institution for decontamination best practices.
Hertfordshire will conduct advanced studies on key technical aspects of mass casualty decontamination to determine the most effective methods and detergents for decontaminating survivors of a chemical terrorism attack or accident. Current U.S. methods were largely developed through experience in chemical accidents, and without the benefit of thorough scientific studies.
Products will be tested under different conditions such as varying temperatures, flow rates, and volumes of water following chemical agent exposure.
“Bystanders and responders can come in contact with the chemicals released into the environment,” according to statement by the government. “Decontamination, such as washing off the chemical, reduces the amount of the chemical absorbed into the body, decreasing the severity of symptoms and the need for antidotes and medical support.”
The research team also will study in which circumstances decontamination is useful, and whether decontamination creates any secondary negative consequences, such as causing the chemicals to reach other people in the decontamination area.
“The ultimate goal of this work is to support development of scientifically grounded, evidence-based guidance for mass decontamination applicable to U.S. conditions following a chemical event,” said Robin Robinson, Ph.D., director of BARDA. “Decontamination is a first line medical countermeasure which can reduce the need for other medical countermeasures, so we are excited to be able to work with the University of Hertfordshire on this important project.” (PHE.gov)
The award was made on September 12, 2012 under Solicitation Number: BARDA-CBRN-BAA-10-100-SOL-00012.