According to the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, there were a total of 143 attacks – 35 biological, 95 chemical, and 13 radiological – using CBRN weapons across the world from 1970 to 2014. The relative ease with which malicious actors could obtain many of the materials and know-how and wide range of dissemination techniques makes them appealing to extremist groups. Biological weapons achieve their intended effects by infecting people with disease-causing microorganisms and other replicative entities, including viruses, infectious nucleic acids and prions. The chief characteristic of biological agents is their ability to multiply in a host over time.
CBRN defence remains an indispensible part of the strategic security preparedness of all nations. CBRN protection includes identifying threats and hazards and preventing or mitigating the effects of CBRN environments. Protective measures include individual protective equipment, detection devices, contamination mitigation technology as well as medical countermeasures. To be resilient, we must be able to respond quickly and effectively to all emerging threats with the appropriate resources including decontamination technologies.
A wide range of individual protection equipment is available, including respirators, protective hoods, protective suits, CBR detectors, decontamination equipment, etc. Of particular note, new models of universal-fit escape hoods have been developed for short-duration “escape-only” wear to protect against chemical agents, aerosols (including biological agents), and some toxic industrial chemicals. These hoods are compact enough to be stored in desks or to be carried on the belt.
Most of these hoods form protective seals at the neck and do not require special fitting techniques or multiple sizes to fit a large portion of the population. Training is required to use the hoods properly. Depending on hood design, the wearer must breathe through a mouth bit or use straps to tighten a nose cup around the nose and mouth.
The protective capability and shelf life of these hoods varies with the design. The filters of the hoods contain both high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters and packed carbon beds, so they will remove chemical and biological aerosols, as well as chemical vapors and gases. Although the carbon filters are designed to filter a broad range of toxic chemicals, they cannot filter all chemicals. An important consideration in planning for use of escape hoods is that their filters are not effective against certain chemicals of high vapor pressure. Chemical masks provide no protection against carbon monoxide, which is produced in fires. Manufacturers’ data should be checked closely when ordering. Other escape hoods are available that employ compressed oxygen cylinders, rather than air filters, to provide eye and respiratory protection for very short periods.
Plans should be made for training, fitting, storing, and maintaining records relative to storage life, and there should be procedures for instructing building occupants as to when to put on the hoods.
Wearing a mask can cause physiological strain and may cause panic or stress that could lead to respiratory problems in some people. Finally, it should be recognized that no single selection of personal protective equipment is effective against every possible threat. Selection must be tied to specific threat/hazard characteristics.
US Military’s MOPP
MOPP (an acronym for “Mission Oriented Protective Posture”; pronounced “mop”) is protective gear used by U.S. military personnel in a toxic environment, e.g., during a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) strike:
Protective mask — Commonly referred to as a gas mask or pro mask. It is designed to filter harmful chemical and biological agents, as well as irradiated particles from the air to allow the wearer to breathe safely. No protective masks filter out gases such as carbon monoxide, and in situations requiring that level of protection, external breathing apparatus is employed.
Mask carrier — Protects the mask from damage. It is usually worn as part of battle gear for easy access and usually contains a technical manual, extra filter, spare parts, chemical detection papers, and nerve agent antidote kits (NAAK).
Over garments — Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) Specially designed clothing to be worn over the normal uniform. These garments are designed to allow maximum airflow for cooling while keeping chemical and biological agents from reaching the skin of the wearer. Some are equipped with a charcoal lining to neutralize some agents. Military personnel often equip over garments with strips of M9 Detector Paper to identify chemical agents on the battlefield they might come in contact with.
M9 Detector paper is worn to detect chemical liquid agents that a service member may brush against while in MOPP gear. It is worn in three different area of the suit. It is worn on the dominant arm, bicep area, on the wrist of the opposite arm, and on the dominant leg, shin area. It is also placed on lower levels of vehicles for detection purposes.
Gloves and overboots — (JSLIST) Highly durable rubber, designed with combat operations in mind. Used to prevent contact with agents
Survitec launches new military CBR protection suits
Military safety equipment manufacturer Survitec has created two new protective bodysuits for military personnel working in hazardous conditions, known as chemical, biological and radioactive (CBR) protection suits.
DERMON ICE suit blocks low-level radiation
Using nanotechnology, the DERMON ICE suit blocks low-level gamma rays of up to 130Kev, which according to the Lawrence Livermore National Defence Laboratory has an efficiency of at least 50%.
The DERMON ICE suit’s name refers to the fabric being made from liquid metal particles with a high thermal conductivity that helps to cool down a soldier’s body temperature inside the bodysuit.
Survitec Group CBRN business manager Paul Parry said: “This suit will revolutionise the way CBR suits can be worn. Not only will it keep the first responder cool, but it will also protect against low-level gamma radiation.
“Many standard CBR suits on the market offer radiological protection against radioactive particulates created by an explosion, as these particles can be dusted off. However, unlike the DEMRON ICE suit, they do not protect against low-level gamma radiation.”
NormMB hybrid suit prevents liquid threats
Meanwhile, the NormMb suit combines carbon and membrane technologies in a hybrid design and is intended for chemical and biological hazardous scenarios. It also protects soldiers from traditional warfare agents, such as mustard gas, and adheres to NATO standard AEP-38, called ‘Operational requirements, technical specifications and evaluation criteria for CBRN protective clothing’.
Parry said: The NormMb suit has a waterproof and liquid agent protective layer. This stops the suit being affected by water or excessive perspiration. It brings together carbon and membrane technologies to create a unique performance characteristic.”
The NormMb is designed for land forces and comes equipped with spherical activated carbon filters, as well as air, water and gas treatment filters. According to Survitec, the NormMb CBR protection suits are seawater-resistant, highly air permeable and adsorbent, and is washable.
NATO standard AEP-38 states that “air permeable materials currently provide greater comfort and lower physiological burden for the user compared to other types of material, allowing operations to be conducted in many climates.”