December 14, 2011
New Test Could Help Track Down And Prosecute Terrorists Who Use Nerve Gas And Other Agents
Scientists are reporting development of a first-of-its-kind technology that could help law enforcement officials trace the residues from terrorist attacks involving nerve gas and other chemical agents back to the companies or other sources where the perpetrators obtained ingredients for the agent. A report on the technique, which could eventually help track down perpetrators of chemical attacks, appears in ACS' journal Analytical Chemistry.
Carlos Fraga and colleagues explain that nerve agents, like sarin (also called GB), are some of the most toxic and fast-acting chemical warfare agents in existence. As seen in the 1994 and 1995 GB attacks in Japan, symptoms – such as a runny nose and a tightness in the chest – can appear within seconds, followed by nausea and difficulty breathing. Although traces of the agent remain after such attacks, there has been no practical way of tracing the agent back to its source ingredients. Fraga's team sought to develop a way to do just that.
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