• Low-cost arsenic sensor could save lives

    Worldwide, 140 million people drink water containing unsafe levels of arsenic, according to the World Health Organization. Short-term exposure causes skin lesions, skin cancer and damage to the cognitive development of children, while long-term exposure leads to fatal internal cancers. A new low-cost, easy-to-use sensor which can test drinking water for arsenic in just one minute.

  • Analytical methods to help develop antidotes for cyanide, mustard gas

    Several Food and Drug Administration-approved antidotes are available for cyanide poisoning, but they have severe limitations. To develop effective antidotes for chemical agents, such as cyanide and mustard gas, scientists need analytical methods that track not only the level of exposure but also how the drug counteracts the effects of the chemical.

  • Comparing pollution levels before and after Hurricane Harvey

    Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in late August 2017, brought more than 64 inches of rain to the Houston area, flooding 200,000 homes, 13 Superfund sites, and more than 800 wastewater treatment facilities. As disasters become more frequent and populations living in vulnerable areas increase, interest in the health effects of exposure to the combination of natural and technological disasters has grown. A new study examined concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) before and after Hurricane Harvey in the Houston neighborhood of Manchester. Manchester, which is located near refineries and other industrial sites along the Houston Ship Channel, is a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood where residents face disproportionate health risks due to pollution and other environmental hazards.

  • Scientists call for better global and local control of mercury

    Mercury is a complex, multifaceted contaminant which can take many different forms. It is poisonous to humans and wildlife and damaging to the environment. Currently, around two thirds of the mercury entering the environment comes from current or legacy human sources including mining, industrial activities, coal combustion and incinerators, with the remaining originating from natural sources. A special issue addressing the most up-to-date science on the fate and effects of mercury has now been published in the journal Ambio.

  • Massive reserves of mercury hidden in permafrost hold significant implications for human health

    Researchers have discovered permafrost in the northern hemisphere stores massive amounts of natural mercury, a finding with significant implications for human health and ecosystems worldwide. The scientists measured mercury concentrations in permafrost cores from Alaska and estimated how much mercury has been trapped in permafrost north of the equator since the last Ice Age. Their study reveals northern permafrost soils are the largest reservoir of mercury on the planet, storing nearly twice as much mercury as all other soils, the ocean and the atmosphere combined.

  • Confirmation: Assad has been using chemical weapons from stocks he pledged to relinquish in 2013

    Labs performing scientific analysis for the UN chemical weapons watchdog have confirmed that the Assad regime has continued to use chemical weapons against Sunni civilians in Syria – chemical munitions from stocks which the regime was supposed to have relinquished in 2013. The analysis also concluded that it would have been virtually impossible for the anti-regime rebels to carry out a coordinated, large-scale chemical strikes with poisonous munitions, even if they had been able to steal the chemicals from the government’s stockpile.

  • Checking chemical detectors’ sensitivity to chemicals

    The Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) has become an important defense tool on battlefields and in war-torn cities over the last few years. About the size and shape of a VHS tape or a hardcover bestselling novel, JCADs sound an alarm and begin to light up if nerve agents such as sarin or blister agents such as mustard gas are present. The detectors are already designed to withstand intense environments and repeated use. But when the Department of Defense wanted a way to check the devices’ sensitivity to chemicals over time, a measurement team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was called in to provide a cost-effective solution.

  • Smart sensor could revolutionize crime, terrorism prevention

    Crime, terrorism prevention, environmental monitoring, reusable electronics, medical diagnostics and food safety, are just a few of the far-reaching areas where a new chemical sensor could revolutionize progress. Engineers at the University of Oxford have used material compounds, known as Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs), to develop technology that senses and responds to light and chemicals. The material visibly changes color depending on the substance detected.

  • A portable, shoe-box-sized chemical detector

    A chemical sensor prototype will be able to detect “single-fingerprint quantities” of substances from a distance of more than 100 feet away, and its developers are working to shrink it to the size of a shoebox. It could potentially be used to identify traces of drugs and explosives, as well as speeding the analysis of certain medical samples. A portable infrared chemical sensor could be mounted on a drone or carried by users such as doctors, police, border officials and soldiers.

  • DHS establishes the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office

    Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen last week announced the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office. DHS says that the CWMD Office will elevate and streamline DHS efforts to prevent terrorists and other national security threat actors from using harmful agents, such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear material and devices to harm Americans and U.S. interests.

  • Better gas mask filters

    In research that could lead to better gas mask filters, scientists have been putting the X-ray spotlight on composite materials in respirators used by the military, police, and first responders, and the results have been encouraging. What they are learning not only provides reassuring news about the effectiveness of current filters in protecting people from lethal compounds such as VX and sarin, but they also provide fundamental information that could lead to more advanced gas masks as well as protective gear for civilian applications.

  • Russia vetoes UN chemical weapons investigation in Syria

    In an effort to protect the Assad regime from more damaging revelations about the regime’s use of chemical weapons, Russia, on Thursday and Friday, vetoed two resolutions to extend the mandate of Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), set up by the UN to investigate the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. JIM’s mandate expired on Friday.

  • Chemical detection sensors at the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub

    In New York, a new magnificent architectural wonder in white, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, also known as the Oculus, attracts tens of thousands of commuters and visitors every day. The Hub connects two subway systems and provides access to multiple buildings that make up the World Trade Center. However, even the most beautiful and useful places are not immune to danger from terrorist chemical attacks. DHS S&T entered into an agreement this spring with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to begin the design, establishment, operation, and maintenance of a chemical detection testbed for identifying hazardous gases.

  • Assad regime behind April 2017 sarin attack on Sunni civilians: UN

    A new report, released Thursday by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the UN chemical weapons watchdog, has found that the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were behind the deadly chemical weapons attack which killed more than ninety people in the village of Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017. The Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against Sunni civilian triggered a U.S. retaliation – fifty-nine Tomahawk cruise-missiles launched against the airbase from which the planes carrying the chemicals took off for the mission.

  • Russia blocks extension of UN’s mandate to investigate Assad’s chemical weapons usage

    On Tuesday, Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution to extend the mandate of the institution investigating chemical weapon attacks in Syria. The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), whose mandate expires next month, was established in 2015 to identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks. A decision on its renewal must be made by 17 November.