December 4, 2008 / 1:49 PM / 10 years ago

Fabric can wipe away toxic chemicals: study

Worker Rod Holum puts on fully sealed protective garments prior to entering a highly toxic area, at the Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah August 22, 2006. REUTERS/Adam Tanner

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A new dry wipe can clean up chemical agents such as mustard gas, giving soldiers a more convenient way to deal with toxic materials on the battlefield, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

The wipe was developed by researchers at Texas Tech University in Lubbock in response to a call by the U.S. military for better ways to decontaminate military personnel and equipment.

“This is the first time this kind of wipe has been developed and it has been tested against a real chemical agent,” Seshadri Ramkumar of Texas Tech, who developed the wipe, said in a telephone interview.

In tests performed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California using mustard gas and other toxic chemicals, the wipe outperformed 30 different materials, including some currently used in military decontamination kits.

Ramkumar, whose study appears in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, said the dry wipe has an activated carbon core sandwiched between an absorbent layer on the top and bottom. It is meant to replace loose particle cleaners currently used by the military.

“When a soldier is fighting and there are open wounds, he will not be able to put loose particles on the skin.

“They needed something which is not loose particles and they also needed something which can be used both on human skin and on sensitive equipment. This is a tremendous improvement,” Ramkumar said.

The university has licensed the product, known as Fibertect, to Hobbs Bonded Fibers in Waco, Texas.

Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Maggie Fox

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