• 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.

  • New early-warning intelligence system alerts civilians to impending chemical attacks

    Since 2011, the Assad regime has killed hundreds of Syrian, and injured thousands, through the use of chemical weapons. Chemical agents are different from explosive chemicals, which cause localized destruction through force. Sarin gas, for example, a nerve agent which has been used in many attacks in Syria, can diffuse into the atmosphere and spread for hundreds of miles. Researchers are working to develop an intelligence system for chemical plume trajectory tracking, which is critical for national safety against impending chemical threats.

  • About 2.1 million Americans using wells high in arsenic

    About 44 million people in the U.S. get their drinking water from private wells. A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 2.1 million of them may be getting their drinking water from private wells considered to have high concentrations of arsenic, presumed to be from natural sources.

  • Fashionable detector-on-a-ring detects chemical, biological threats

    Wearable sensors are revolutionizing the tech-world, capable of tracking processes in the body, such as heart rates. They’re even becoming fashionable, with many of them sporting sleek, stylish designs. But wearable sensors also can have applications in detecting threats that are external to the body.

  • Finding confirms Assad’s systematic use of chemical weapons in Syria

    Samples from an attack in northern Syria on 30 March “prove the existence of sarin,” a deadly nerve agent, the director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on 4 October. The attack injured dozens, but it did not kill anybody. So why is this finding important? Because it confirms a pattern of sarin use by the government of Bashar al-Assad.

  • Israel destroys Syrian chemical weapons facility

    The Israeli air force Thursday morning attacked and destroyed a chemical arms plant in in Syria. Media reports say that Israel had destroyed the Scientific Studies and Researchers Center facility near the city of Masyaf in central Syria, where Syria has been working on developing of chemical weapons. This was the first time a high-level Israeli official has confirmed the scope of Israel’s attacks. Thursday’s attack was the first Israeli strike against a military facility in Syria since a cease-fire was reached in southern Syria in July (there have been, however, low-level border skirmishes between Israel and units of Assad army). Israel bitterly complained that the cease-fire agreement negotiated between the United States and Russia ignored acute Israeli security concerns.

  • Assad used chemical weapons more than two dozen times: UN

    The regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria has used chemical weapons on more than two dozen occasions since the outbreak of the civil war six years ago, including in April’s deadly attack on Khan Sheikhoun, a UN war crimes investigation revealed on Wednesday. In their 14th report since 2011, which includes the most conclusive findings to date from investigations into chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian civil war, the UN investigators said they had documented a total of 33 attacks.

  • UN: Two shipments of chemical weapons from North Korea to Syria were intercepted

    North Korea has been caught delivering shipments to a Syrian government agency in charge of the country’s chemical weapons program, according to a confidential UN report on North Korea’s sanctions violations.The United States and Russia brokered a deal in 2013 requiring Syria to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles.

  • Breakthrough in countering deadly VX

    First developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s, VX is one of the most toxic chemical weapon threats facing soldiers on the battlefield – and civilians as well, as the use by VX by Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad shows. DoD currently uses the Reactive Skin Decontamination Lotion (RSDL) for broad-spectrum agent elimination on unbroken skin, but a capability gap exists for treating chemical agent exposure to large affected areas or open wounds.

  • New optical device detects drugs, bomb-making chemicals

    Scientists searching for traces of drugs, bomb-making components, and other chemicals often shine light on the materials they’re analyzing. This approach is known as spectroscopy, and it involves studying how light interacts with trace amounts of matter. One of the more effective types of spectroscopy is infrared absorption spectroscopy, which scientists use to sleuth out performance-enhancing drugs in blood samples and tiny particles of explosives in the air.

  • A spate of acid attacks in London is part of an international problem

    A series of five acid attacks in one night in London has created a moment for the British government to take a more public stance on this growing problem. Available statistics suggest a sharp rise in attacks with corrosive substances in the United Kingdom. Data produced by the Metropolitan Police reveal that there were 455 crimes involving corrosive substances in London alone in 2016. Dozens of incidents have been reported so far this year. It is also clear that acid violence is a global problem. Acid Survivors Trust International reports a significant number of attacks in India, Colombia, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Uganda, and Cambodia. There is thus a need to think about how to identify and support good practice internationally – in terms of prevention and supporting victims. This can help the efficient sharing of expertise and resources globally.

  • New class of chemical vapor sensors

    An interdisciplinary team of scientists demonstrated that monolayer 2D Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (TMDs) — atomically thin semiconductors — undergo a change from semiconductor-to-metallic phase when exposed to airborne chemical vapors. The team validated optical and electronic evidence of the phase transition and how the behavior can be used to create an entirely new class of chemical vapor sensors. This new class of instruments are potentially more sensitive than current state-of-the-art models, and selective to specific nerve agents and explosive compounds which are of great concern on today’s battlefields.

  • Decrease in lead exposure in early childhood likely responsible for drop in crime rate

    Exposure to lead in the preschool years significantly increases the chance that children will be suspended or incarcerated during their school careers, according to new research. Conversely, a drop in exposure leads to less antisocial behavior and thus may well be a significant factor behind the drop in crime over the past few decades.

  • Oil spill puzzle solved: Oil-eating bacteria consumed the Deepwater Horizon oil plume

    The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 is one of the most studied spills in history, yet scientists have not agreed on the role of microbes in eating up the oil. Now, a research team has identified all of the principal oil-degrading bacteria as well as their mechanisms for chewing up the many different components that make up the released crude oil.

  • U.S. warns Assad over planned chemical attack

    The United States has charged that the Assad regime was preparing to launch another large-scale chemical weapons attack on Sunni Syrians — warning that the Syrian regime would “pay a heavy price” if it went ahead with the attack. The White House, in a statement released late Monday, said that the United States had noticed Syrian military preparations similar to those the Syrian military had undertaken ahead of the 4 April chemical attack which killed eighty-seven Syrian civilians.