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THMG130 – Novichok


Wow. Listening to the news recently we began to think, “What the heck is Novichok?!?”

So we set out to investigate and in this episode we explain our findings. Some interesting tidbits here.

Thanks for listening and watching!

  1. In this episode I’m going to review a topic that I personally didn’t know, so like any good community member, I did my homework, and am sharing it with y’all.
  2. I recently heard a story on the news about a WMD called Novichok.
    1. I’ve heard about the others, the VX, Soman and the like.
    2. Never this one.
  3. I fed it into the old googler, and the only “credible” source was wiki. Which as we all know can be false in places. The worst type of these are the just true enough to screw us up.
    1. Especially on things that in our cases can injure of kill us.
  4. I was able to piece together information from various books I found in the firehouse and from various other sources. I hope this helps us understand this a little better.
  5. As per an article in the Independant, a UK based paper, this is what happened.
    1. Remember, I am not vouching for this information, I am just setting the scene for the reason to know. This scenario can happen. As for the facts, I cannot verify anymore than this.
  6. There was a nerve agent attack in Salisbury
    1. Sergei Skripal and his daughter were affected.
    2. They believe that there was a military nerve agent used in their home
    3. The 2 are in critical condition
    4. There are over 500 interviews being conducted
    5. The point of contact for the exposure seems to be the homes front door
    6. There is conjecture about the sources of the agent.
  7. So, what is Novichok?
    1. One of the valid sources I investigated is a book called the North American Emergency response Guidebook, about the 2000 version. I can’t tell exactly because it’s ripped there, but it’s somewhere around there.
    2. Novichok is listed in the Class Index C04 section of Nerve agents
      1. It goes on to explain that the Novichok series of Nerve agents were originally developed by the Soviet Union
      2. Minimal information is public about this agent, but some conjectures can be drawn from the text
    3. Let’s review in general about Nerve agents
      1. They disrupt the function of the nervous system be interfering with the enzyme acetylcholinesterase.
      2. The major effects will be seen in the skeletal muscles, certain targeted organs and the central nervous system.
    4. The Novichok data has not been published or even established.
      1. But it is known that the effects of this particular agent are 5 to 8 times more effective than VX.
      2. Another major problem as I see it is that it is considered a Binary agent.
        1. What this means is that there are two “non-toxic” components that combined to make this stuff.
        2. That makes it very hard to detect or identify in their separate state. When combined they transform chemically into the agent.
      3. They likely have a Vapor Density heavier than that of air and will go down
      4. They also, based on other Nerve agents will be absorbed into materials and be difficult to remove
      5. Whatever they do have contact with will continue to generate vapors
      6. We have no idea about their solubilities
      7. We have no idea as to the specific gravity of the agent
    5. Let’s talk briefly about the detection methods of the agent
      1. Consideration should be given to a few methods currently at our disposal
        1. Colormetric tubes
          1. As we all know these little gems are made to qualitatively detect vapors. Though they give gradients for measuring, there is nothing concrete as to where the line is.
          2. Use the ones that will measure for phosphoric acid esters
        2. You may also want to consider the PID or the FID
        3. Organophosphates contain Phosphorus and also may contain sulfur, nitrogen and even fluorine depending on their makeup. So the AP4C will hit on these.
        4. You also may get hits on various Mass Spec technology such as the MX908.
          1. One word of caution here though is that the agent in question may not be in the library, so a reachback is probably going to be done and sent in for analysis.
        5. One of the issues we may run into is the lack of quantity of the substance. This will make it hard for some things to read.
  8. From the general section of the manual on PPE selection we see that:
    1. They are recommending a Level A ensemble
    2. They are also not recommending Structural Firefighting gear unless fire is involved.
      1. This is not effective for spill or releases.
    3. Let’s review some of the finer points about PPE in this situation
      1. NFPA 1991 and NFPA 1994 (class 3 and higher) ensembles are tested against chemical warfare agents.  NFPA 1991 represents the traditional Level A garments.  NFPA 1994 has several of the traditional Level B garments (cross-certified to NFPA 1992) as well as the newer breathable garments from Blauer and Lion.  Unless a splash suit (Level B, NFPA 1992) is cross-certified to NFPA 1994 Class 2, it has likely not been challenged with chemical agents.  Remember, most materials will pass the challenge at the material level…it is the seams and interfaces that are the hardest challenges.  In addition to all of these ensembles being tested against the permeation of chemical warfare agents, they are also particulate tight which brings about another advantage.
  9. Decontamination
    1. Your main recourse for the decontamination of people will continue to be removal of their clothing and washing with soap and water.  If the eyes appear to be contaminated, rinsing with saline or water is recommended.
    2. The standard decontamination materials used by the DoD for equipment are oxidants.  Dahlgren Decon, as its name implies, was developed by the Department of Defense for this reason at the Navy Surface Warfare Center at Dahlgren, VA.
      1. Dahlgren’s active ingredient, peracetic acid, has excellent oxidation capabilities.  For area decon (not sensitive equipment), consideration can be given to using HTH (as household bleach will likely not be strong enough to destroy in a timely fashion).
  10. Signs and Symptoms
    1. Pinpointing of pupils (similar to that seen with opioids)
    2. Extreme nasal discharge (and other secretions)
    3. Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath or tightness of chest)
    4. Lethal amounts will cause loss of consciousness and convulsion within 30 seconds.
  11. Treatment
    1. Decontaminate by removing clothing and washing with soap and water.
    2. If the agent has gotten into the eyes, irrigate with water or 0.9% saline for at least 15 minutes.
    3. If the agent has gotten into open wounds, irrigate with water or 0.9% saline for at least 10 minutes.
    4. If breathing is difficult, administer oxygen.  Reminder that ventilation may be difficult due to constriction of the airway and the presence of secretions.
    5. As soon as possible, administer atropine and 2-PAM chloride.  If 2-PAMCl is not immediately available, administer atropine alone.
    6. Diazepam may be required to prevent or control convulsions, but only if within 40 minutes of exposure (or its effectiveness declines).
  12. Remember, treat the symptoms!  As with any time you suspect that an exposure could be intentional, contact your nearest FBI office as well as the State authorities to get the Civil Support Team system activates.


The Hazmat Guys

Author: The Hazmat Guys


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