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Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

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Homeland Security Models WMD Agent Dispersal in Boston Subway Line

Efforts to measure the dispersal patterns of harmless airborne materials in the Boston subway system are expected to aid efforts to prepare response plans to a potential WMD attack on one of the United States' mass-transit systems, CSO Online reported Monday (see GSN, Aug. 18).

Last December and again in August, Homeland Security Department officials released two kinds of atmospheric tracer gases in the Boston subway line. Scientists hoped to deepen their understanding of the dissemination patterns of airborne chemical and biological warfare agents and the speed at which they would move if deployed by terrorists. Electronic equipment monitored the movements of the tracer gases.

"The movement of airborne contaminants can be affected by differences in temperature and humidity, so a comprehensive study requires gathering data in both winter and summer months," program manager Teresa Lustig said. "A second phase of the study also allows us to test the effectiveness of some of the proposed countermeasure and response strategies derived from analysis of the December tests."

Gas levels were measured in more than 20 Boston stations and in subway trains throughout the underground expanse of the system.

"Once an aerosol is released into the air, it takes awhile for it to settle," IBX General Manager David Silcott said. "Once a train comes along, it pushes it down further into the system."

Boston subway system officials can use the findings to create plans for rapidly identifying airborne threats and for minimizing their dissemination. Strategies for ventilation and evacuation could also be developed, Lustig said.

Similar research has been conducted on the subway line serving the Washington, D.C. area (Joan Goodchild, CSO Online, Oct. 18).

NTI Analysis