Troops in the field find NBC (Nuclear Biolgical Chemical) a confusing and scary subject.
    “Truth to tell, the troopers call it, ‘Nobody Cares:’ NBC,” says retired Col. David Hackworth, an advocate of soldier’s rights. “What they’ve been saying to me is that they don’t trust their gear. They don’t think it will work in a desert environment where it’s burning hot. A soldier without confidence is in trouble."

When I was in Fort Leonard Wood I attended something called the CDTF (Chemical Defense Training Facility). It was a large, barbed-wire complex with armed guards and high-tech monitoring systems. It contained several chambers located deep within the complex in which live nerve agent was used in training.

We entered one end of the building, and took a series of shots. We were then issued completely new NBC defense gear, and suited up. We entered the first chamber, which contained a gas that causes an uncontrollable coughing reaction, called camphor. They flooded this chamber with camphor to ensure our Protective Masks were sealed properly. We stood in that chamber for nearly an hour. When we got the green light, the previous chamber sealed, and the door opened, and we entered the main lobby of the chamber. It was circular in shape, and had large pressurized rooms with double doors on the perimeter. Each room had different pieces of equipment, and you had to perform different tasks in each. One room contained an M1 Abrams Tank and a helicopter of some sort. The instructors had placed liquid contamination on different areas, and we had to find them using our issued detection equipment, a high-speed handheld chemical agent detector called an ICAM.

There was a decent level of agitation, due to the fact that you were in a real-life hot zone flooded with nerve agent vapor, and the only way out was a Thorough Decontamination line that took precious time to complete. You had to first strip naked, through a series of lines in which you would remove clothing in order. At the end, you had only your mask on, completely naked. Then you would stand at a door, take a deep breath, remove your mask, and walk through. On the other side, was a cold shower humorously called the "hot shower". It shocked your skin into closing it's pores, preventing your skin from absorbing any vapor residue. Lots of people would pass out due to the long periods of standing still in heavy chemical gear, and lack of oxygen from breathing through a pro-mask.


US Army - Doctrine pertaining to the removal of chemical contamination.

The US Army defines decontamination as:

Limit the spread of contamination. That is, the purpose of decontamination is to remove the hazard, but its primary mission is to prevent the spread of hazards.

When I teach soldiers classes on decontamination, I emphasize the fact that much of this subject is victim of common sense. You must use common sense when applying decontamination procedures.


  • US Army Decontamination Equipment
    • M291 SDK - Skin decontamination kit. Small pad about 1x3 inches in size. It has a loop on one end to place your fingers in, while the other side contains a charcoal compound. This is used, primarily, to deconaminate exposed skin in the event of exposure. Of course, it can be used for other things, but is limited due to its small size.
    • M295 EDK - Equipment decontamination kit. This item looks similar to the mitt you use to wash your car, but it's flat and abrasive. It also uses a charcoal compound. This item is used for medium sized pieces of equipment, like weapons or radios.
    • M100 - This kit uses a mit that looks exactly like the mits you use to wash your car. The kit comes with a package of charcoal compound. Simply open the package, pour a copious amount onto the mit, and wipe onto conamination. This is primarily used for large amounts of contamination.
    • Notes: These charcoal compounds are easy to use and simple. You apply the charcoal to the contamination, and it soaks it up. Now, that charcoal is contaminated and presents a hazard, but you have completed the primary mission by limiting the spread of contamination. Once the charcoal has been applied with either M291 or M295, wipe in an 'X' pattern with the pads and place in the plastic bags that come with the kits. Then, either store for examination, or bury. With the M100, wipe in a circle for 1-2 minutes, and follow disposal procedures.
    • DAP 13 - Decontamination Apparatus Portable. This item contains a solution known as DS2 (Decontamination Solution 2, complicated huh?). This solution is highly toxic, and considered a hazardous material of it's own. The DAP 13 comes with 1 can of DS2, and an attachable hose/pump apparatus with a brush on the end. Simply hook up the hose to the DS2 can, spray the solution onto the contamination, and use the brush to spread the DS2 over the entire surface. Note: This solution is so corrosive, the military replaced the metal exterior of their HMMWVs with a CARC (Chemical Agent Resistant Coating) to help decontamination. When applied, the DS2 could eat through the metal skin of older vehicles. It also reacts violently with oxidizing agents, such as Super Tropical Bleach. It also has a flash point of around 168 F, 76 C degrees. If ignited, it burns violently and creates a lethal vapor hazard.

      These are the notes from the Emedco MSDS library pertaining to DS2.

      Item Description Information
      Item Manager: A12
      Item Name: DECONTAMINATING APPARATUS
      Unit of Issue: EA
      UI Container Qty: 1
      Ingredients
      Cas: 111-40-0
      RTECS #: IE1225000
      Name: DIETHYLENE TRIAMINE
      % Wt: 70
      Other REC Limits: NONE RECOMMENDED
      OSHA PEL: 1 PPM
      ACGIH TLV: S, 1 PPM; 9293
      ------------------------------
      Cas: 109-86-4
      RTECS #: KL5775000
      Name: ETHYLENE GLYCOL MONOMETHYL ETHER, (2-METHOXYETHANOL), (EGME) (SARA III)
      % Wt: 28
      Other REC Limits: NONE RECOMMENDED
      OSHA PEL: S, 25 PPM
      ACGIH TLV: S, 5 PPM; 9293
      ------------------------------
      Cas: 1310-73-2
      RTECS #: WB4900000
      Name: SODIUM HYDROXIDE (SARA III)
      % Wt: 2
      Other REC Limits: NONE RECOMMENDED
      OSHA PEL: C 2 MG/M3
      ACGIH TLV: C 2 MG/M3; 9293
      EPA Rpt Qty: 1000 LBS
      DOT Rpt Qty: 1000 LBS
      Health Hazards Data
      LD50 LC50 Mixture: NONE SPECIFIED BY MANUFACTURER.
      Route Of Entry Inds - Inhalation: YES
      Skin: YES
      Ingestion: YES
      Carcinogenicity Inds - NTP: NO
      IARC: NO
      OSHA: NO
      Effects of Exposure:
      EYES: IRRITATION, BURNS, DAMAGE, BLINDNESS.
      SKIN: IRRITATION, DERMATITIS.
      INHALATION: IRRITATION OF NOSE, THROAT, CHEST. HEADACHE, DIZZINESS, NAUSEA, VOMITING. DAMAGE TO LUNGS, BONE MARROW, BLOOD CELL S, KIDNEY, LIVER, AND TESTES. INGESTION: MOUTH, THROAT, STOMACH BURNS. NAUSEA, VOMITING, DIARRHEA, KIDNEY DAMAGE, DEATH.
      Explanation Of Carcinogenicity: NONE
      Signs And Symptions Of Overexposure:
      EYES: IRRITATION, BURNS, DAMAGE, BLINDNESS.
      SKIN: IRRITATION, DERMATITIS.
      INHALATION: IRRITATION OF NOSE, THROAT, CHEST. HEADACHE, DIZZINESS, NAUSEA, VOMITING. DAMAGE TO LUNGS, BONE MARROW, BLOOD CELL S, KIDNEY, LIVER, AND TESTES. INGESTION: MOUTH, THROAT, STOMACH BURNS. NAUSEA, VOMITING, DIARRHEA, KIDNEY DAMAGE, DEATH.
      Medical Cond Aggravated By Exposure: OVER EXPOSURE MAY AGGRAVATE EXISTING RESPIRATORY CONDITIONS, SUCH AS ASTHMA, BRONCHITIS, OR FIBROTIC RESPIRATORY DISEASE.
      First Aid:
      EYES: FLUSH WITH LARGE AMOUNTS OF WATER. GET MEDICAL ATTENTION.
      SKIN: REMOVE CONTAMINATED CLOTHING. FLUSH AREA WITH LARGE AMOUNTS OF WATER. GET MEDICAL ATTENTION.
      INHALATION: MOVE TO FRESH AIR. IF NEE DED, OXYGEN MAY BE GIVEN BY QUALIFIED INDIVIDUAL. GET MEDICAL ATTENTION.
      INGESTION: IF CONSCIOUS, GIVE 2 GLASSES OF WATER (16 OZ). DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING. GET MEDICAL ATTENTION.
      Handling and Disposal
      Spill Release Procedures: VENTILATE AREA. AVOID BREATHING VAPORS. CONTAIN SPILL. NEUTRALIZE WITH SODIUM BISULFATE. ABSORB WITH VERMICULITE, CLAY, OR DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. COLLECT MATERIAL IN STEEL DRUMS FOR DISPOSAL.
      Neutralizing Agent: SODIUM BISULFATE
      Waste Disposal Methods: DISPOSE OF WASTE IN ACCORDANCE WITH LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL REGULATIONS.
      Handling And Storage Precautions: AVOID HIGH TEMPERATURES (ABOVE 160 F).
      Other Precautions: DS2 WILL REACT VIOLENTLY WITH ACIDS.OXIDIZING AGENTS (HYPOCHLORITES) MAY CAUSE FIRE AND/OR EXPLOSION WHEN MIXED WITH DS2.DO NOT ADD NITRITES,MAY FORM SUSPECTED CANCER-CAUSING NITROSAMINES.
      Fire and Explosion Hazard Information
      Flash Point Method: PMCC
      Flash Point Text: 168F,76C
      Lower Limits: UNKNOWN
      Upper Limits: UNKNOWN
      Extinguishing Media: CARBON DIOXIDE, ALCOHOL FOAM, WATER.
      Fire Fighting Procedures: WEAR SELF-CONTAINED BREATHING APPARATUS (SCBA) AND FULL TURNOUT GEAR (FP A).
      Unusual Fire/Explosion Hazard: NEVER MIX OR STORE ACIDS, OXIDIZING AGENTS, OR SUPERTROPICAL BLEACH TOGETHER WITH DS2. OXIDIZING AGENTS MAY CAUSE FIRE AND/OR EXPLOSION WHEN MIXED WITH DS2.
      Control Measures
      Respiratory Protection: WHEN EXPOSURES EXCEED THE TLV, USE AN APPROVED ORGANIC VAPOR RESPIRATOR OR SUPPLIED AIR RESPIRATOR IN POSITIVE PRESSURE MODE. FOLLOW MANUFACTURERS RECOMMENDATIONS AND LIMITATIONS.
      Ventilation: GENERALLY,MECHANICAL VENTILATION IS ADEQUATE.
      Protective Gloves: BUTYL RUBBER
      Eye Protection: CHEMICAL TYPE GOGGLES WITH FACE SHIELD.
      Other Protective Equipment: CHEMICAL APRON, EYE WASH STATION AND SAFETY SHOWER. DO NOT WEAR CONTACT LENSES.
      Work Hygienic Practices: WASH AFTER HANDLING AND BEFORE EATING, DRINKING, OR SMOKING. LAUNDER CONTAMINATED CLOTHING BEFORE REUSE.
      Physical/Chemical Properties
      HCC: B1
      B.P. Text: 380F,193C
      M.P/F.P Text: UNKNOWN
      Decomp Text: UNKNOWN
      Vapor Pres: UNKNOWN
      Vapor Density: UNKNOWN
      Spec Gravity: 0.97-0.98
      Evaporation Rate ANDamp; Reference: UNKNOWN
      Solubility in Water: UNKNOWN
      Appearance and Odor: CLEAR, AMBER SOLUTION. ANNONIA-LIKE ODOR.
      Corrosion Rate: UNKNOWN
      Reactivity Data
      Stability Indicator: YES
      Stability Condition To Avoid: DS2 IS A CORROSIVE MATERIAL AND BECAUSE OF ITS CONTENT IT IS DELETERIOUS TO SOME METALS, PLASTICS, PAINT, WOOL, LEATHER.
      Materials To Avoid: METALS
      (ALUMINUM,CADMIUM,COPPER,TIN,ZINC),SOME PLASTICS,PAINT,WOOL,LEATHER,ACIDS,OXIDIZING AGENTS.
      Hazardous Decomposition Products: NONE SPECIFIED BY MANUFACTURER.
      Hazardous Polymerization Indicator: NO
      Conditions To Avoid Polymerization: WILL NOT OCCUR.

    • STB - Super Tropical Bleach. This dry powder mix is commonly used in shuffle pits to aid decontamination of footgear. It is an oxidizer, and can ignite DS2.
    • M13 - The M13 is an older version of the pressure washer decontamination apparatus. It is basically a pressure washer the size of a refrigerator, with heater and water tank attachments. It has an optional hopper for adding slurry, a mixture of decontamination chemicals.
    • M17 CINATOR - This is the smaller replacement for the M13. It has a built in heater, and can run around 65-80 psi (I believe). While portable and more efficient, it is a tempermental machine that is hard to start and harder to keep running. There have been 4 variations, and the M13A4 is fully automatic and reliable.
    • Note: Both the M13 and M17 have hose and shower attachments for different configurations. Also, when spraying water, one must remember that the water runoff and splash presents it's own contamination hazard.


The Army has 2 forms of decontamination operations:

  • Operational Decontamination - Quick decon site which is tasked on removing gross contamination, and allowing soldiers to put on fresh chemical suits, known as JSLIST (Joint Service Lightweight Intergrated Suit Technology) . The purpose is to return the unit to combat as soon as possible.
  • Thorough Decontamination - Very slow and thorough decontamination site that removes all contamination and allows soldiers to relax MOPP (see Weapons of Mass Destruction) posture.

    When a unit is contaminated in the field, they report to higher headquarters and the commander chooses a site and type of decon operation, under advisory assistance from the NBC NCO or officer. Once again, much of NBC is common sense, but in the heat of battle or action, and under the added stress of the terror factor, there must be personnel that are trained and efficient on all pieces of equipment and operational procedures.

    Once decon procedures have been completed, and all testing equipment produces a negative reading, one soldier is selected. This soldier has the lowest operational dependency. The soldier removes his mask, and drinks water as the NBC NCO or officer, accompanied by medics, observe the soldier for signs of contamination. If after 5 minutes no signs surface, the unit commander may opt to give the All Clear command.


    Military and government documents and regulations are paid for by taxpayers, and therefore are public domain. The MSDS sheets are published data sheets containing information pertaining to hazardous materials.

    Quote thanks to CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/02/14/60minutes/main540691.shtml

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