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Scientists Develop Bio, Chem Protection Material

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania have developed a material that could provide protection against biological or chemical warfare materials, the Pitt News reported today (see GSN, March 30).

The substance is comprised of long bands of molecules known as polymers, according to a study published in March. The molecular makeup of the material would counteract similar polymers found in biological and chemical weapons agents.

"This mesh could be developed into sponges, coatings or liquid sprays, and it could be used internally or as a wound dressing that is capable of killing bacteria, viruses and spores," Richard Koepsel, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Surgery Department, said in a press release.

"You would wrap yourself in it, use a little water and it would help (neutralize) what you've already come in contact with," he added.

Other possible uses of the material include lining hazardous materials gear, air filters or masks deployed to military and emergency response personnel as an added safeguard against WMD exposure. It could also be used in products for decontaminating an area after an incident, according to Koepsel.

The material would not be effective for all biological or chemical weapons attacks.

"If the concentration is high enough, you can't really do much," Koepsel said.

No company has begun producing the material. Though the cost could be high, the substance could be manufactured in a limited period of time, he said.

Potential buyers of the material would likely be the U.S. military, emergency response agencies and the public (Johanna Jones, Pitt News, April 7).

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