• Harnessing Earth’s Magnetic Field to Detect Chemicals

    A newly designed spectroscopy instrument allows scientists, industry, and governments to decipher even trace amounts of chemicals using the Earth’s own magnetic field. The portable tool will help scientists, industry, and governments easily detect and identify trace amounts of chemicals.

  • The “Red Line” That Wasn’t

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons (CW) against his own people is the greatest challenge the Chemical Weapons Convention has ever faced. This breach of the taboo against CW use sparked numerous national and international investigations to determine the details of exactly what happened and who had done it. Joby Warrick’s Red Line is a useful addition to this debate, but the definitive book on the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war remains to be written.

  • Robot Seeks Out Chemical Agents

    Scientists have successfully tested a fully autonomous robot that will help defense and security personnel dealing with hazardous scenes. The development of the robot means that humans and machines can now share the burden of detecting and report dangerous chemicals over large areas.

  • K9 Chemistry: A Safer Way to Train Detection Dogs

    Trained dogs are incredible chemical sensors, far better at detecting explosives, narcotics and other substances than even the most advanced technological device. But one challenge is that dogs have to be trained, and training them with real hazardous substances can be inconvenient and dangerous.

  • New Information on Syria’s Chemical Weapons Program

    A new report offers the most comprehensive investigative report to date on Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), the entity at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons program. The report contains new information on how the Syrian government orchestrated attacks using sarin, a banned nerve agent whose use is considered a war crime.

  • Mystery Over Russian’s Suspected Poisoning Deepens with New FBI Records

    RFE/RL Exclusive: In hundreds of FBI documents obtained exclusively by RFE/RL, new clues to the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza — and new details about how serious the U.S. government considered his case.

  • How Putin Borrowed a Page from Assad’s Chemical Weapon Playbook

    Russia use of Novichock to poison opposition leader Alexei Navalny highlights a problem against which Western countries have not yet been able to devise an effective policy: the use of chemical weapons by authoritarian regimes against domestic regime critics. Preventing Russia, or any other autocratic ruler, from using poisons against domestic opponents is a tall order, Gregory D. Koblentz writes, but “Understanding the motivations of authoritarian leaders, and the intensity of their concerns about regime security, however, is the first step towards devising an effective strategy for deterring their use of chemical, and possibly someday biological, weapons against their own people.”

  • Navalny's Team: Water Bottle with Novichok Traces Found in His Hotel Room in Tomsk

    Associates of Aleksei Navalny say traces of the nerve agent used to poison the Russian opposition politician were found on a water bottle in the hotel room he was staying in in the Russian city of Tomsk. When Navalny was flown to Germany for treatment, the bottle was sent along, and German scientists found tracers of Novichock in the bottle. Traces of the toxic Novichock, a favorite poison of the Russian intelligence services against critics of the Putin regime, were also found in samples taken from Navalny’s body.

  • History of Nerve Agent Assassinations

    Poisoning political opponents or enemies is not new. Reviews of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) usage through the 20th century similarly list successful and attempted assassinations with mineral poisons or animal and plant toxins in and outside of war. Modern chemical weapons (CW) – typically human-made toxic compounds standardized for use on battlefields – have rarely been selected to target individuals – but a spate of recent political poisonings indicate that this may be changing.

  • Second Skin Protects against Chem, Bio Agents

    Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of chemical weapons in the Syria conflict have provided a stark reminder of the plethora of chemical and biological threats that soldiers, medical personnel and first responders face during routine and emergency operations. Researchers have developed a smart, breathable fabric designed to protect the wearer against biological and chemical warfare agents. Material of this type could be used in clinical and medical settings as well.

  • DARPA Wants Smart Suits to Protect Against Biological Attacks

    DARPA, the Pentagon’s research arm, wants to accelerate the development of innovative textiles and smart materials to better and more comfortably protect humans from chemical and biological threats.

  • Paper-Based Sensor Detects Potent Nerve Toxins

    Chemist developed a new, paper-based sensor that can detect two potent nerve toxins that have reportedly been used in chemical warfare. The toxin, paraoxon, is thought to have been used in chemical warfare during the 1970s in what is now Zimbabwe, and later by the apartheid regime in South Africa as part of its chemical weapons program.

  • Britain’s Secret War with Russia

    A drab office building on the outskirts of the Swiss town of Spiez houses Switzerland’s Federal Office for Civil Protection, renowned for its work on global nuclear, chemical, and biological threats.Over the course of a few months in 2018, this outfit’s gentle existence was upended, as the lab became caught in a cold war between Russia on one side and the United Kingdom and the West on the other.

  • Preparing for Chemical Attacks

    Is the U.S. ready for a chemical attack on the homeland? With the very real possibility of a chemical attack in public spaces like stadiums, religious buildings, museums and theaters, or even contamination of the food or water supply, the U.S. needs to be prepared to take appropriate action to save lives. This means having security measures in place to prevent or minimize the attack. It also means having effective medical responses that consider the quantity of medical supplies needed, transportation of those supplies to the scene, and medical facilities and personnel to care for the injured.

  • Helping First Responders Identify Unknown Chemicals

    First responders arrive first on the scene when disaster strikes or terrorists attack. They often encounter dangerous conditions like smoke and chemicals. To best help in situations like these, they need to know the chemical substances present onsite. This is where analytical field instruments such as Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometers (GC/MS) come into play. But to acquire such technology, first responders first need to know which GC/MSs suit both their needs and their budgets.