Kevin Cresswell presents a new method of effective and rapid decontamination.

In any military environment, decontamination capability is required to restore the combat effectiveness of equipment and personnel as rapidly as possible.

Throughout history, there are many examples of chemical and biological weapons used or proposed during the course of battle. The effects of industrialised chemical warfare during World War I were exacerbated because the principles of decontamination were not properly understood.

With tactical warfare on both sides using incendiary mixtures, smokes, or irritant, burning, poisonous and asphyxiating gases, the military were slow to learn that a physical process was needed to remove or neutralise chemical or biological agents in a timely manner.

Early decon
Mustard ‘gas,’ in particular, was difficult to manage. A liquid, dispersed in droplet or aerosol form remained active for up to 25 to 30 years and caused rapid injury in contact with skin, even through clothing.

Long after an attack was concluded due to lack of adequate decon capability, mustard gas remained dangerous. Those exposed, especially in high concentrations or for long periods of time, were bathed with hot soap and water to remove the chemical from their skin before blistering occurred. Portable shower units were rushed to the front, with specially trained medics to help minimise the condition.

In the decades since World War I, chemical warfare continued to develop from repurposed industrial chemistries, the nerve agents of WWII Germany, the V agents of the 1950s, and – more recently – Novichoks.

Military priorities
In any military environment decontamination must be applied rapidly to restore the combat effectiveness of equipment and personnel.

All decontamination methods have strengths and weaknesses for different applications. This is not surprising given the range of things that need to be decontaminated – ranging from the skin of personnel, personal equipment, sensitive equipment, platform interiors and exteriors, and interior and exterior fixed facilities.

Given the wide range of scenarios and decontamination targets it is apparent there is no panacea or silver bullet – so there is a need for families of complementary decon systems to provide safe, effective and rapid capabilities.

To be effective, decontamination is more than just the product or the method. After all, simple disrobing is a form of decontamination. There is a science behind successful decon that requires understanding of the what, how and why before providing the best solutions and products for the task in hand.

In recent years, R&D has been focused on developing decontamination systems that would overcome these limitations and effectively decontaminate a broad spectrum of agents from all surfaces and materials.

A critical need in any toolbox of decontamination methods is sensitive equipment decontamination. In most conflicts, it’s the side with the best technology who is most likely to win – and this means that effective, rapid sensitive equipment decontamination is a key need.

Enter M2DCON

Leading the charge, Ohio-based M2DCON has multiple decades of experience in research, development and use of chemical and biological decontamination chemistries, equipment and related collective protection products.

With more than 25 patents and extensive collaborative research with industry leaders and government laboratories – including US Army CBC (formerly known as ECBC), US Air Force AFRL and Dugway, to name just a few – M2DCON has proven experience in developing and manufacturing state-of-the-art decontamination equipment, chemistries, and consumables. These meet the most challenging requirements of Industry to defence, adapting commercial technology for military defence.

The M2DCON team used to be the Defense and Aerospace Group at a large private corporation. The Corporation chose to exit the defence market and the M2DCON team chose to leave, form M2DCON, and continue supporting the decon needs of the defence and first-responder markets.

President of M2DCON Tim Meilander explains: “It began with the anthrax attacks in the US. Industry answered the call to provide decontamination technology in response. Our team answered this call with vapour phase hydrogen peroxide (VPHP).”

“The challenge was to rapidly take a technology designed for small-scale commercial decontamination and scale it up to building-scale capabilities in a matter of weeks. News of the anthrax attack broke in September 2001 – the scaled-up system completed its first operational demonstration in December. The M2DCON team went onto successfully decontaminate two federal Government facilities.”
IAIN MCVEY, CO-OWNER OF M2DCON

VPHP

VPHP is one of the most widely used technologies for decontamination, disinfection and sterilisation. VPHP is routinely used to disinfect and sterilise bioscience labs installed in many BSL 3 and 4 facilities. It is also applied to pharmaceutical and food production manufacturing equipment and the electronics used to control the manufacturing processes – used in facilities producing everything from injectable medications to yogurt, and in beverage filling lines.

With the demonstration of their ability to rapidly respond to unique requirements, develop and deploy prototype technology for immediate fielding, and successfully support mission goals, M2DCON entered into a cooperative R&D agreement with the US Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC, now DEVCOM CBC).

The next challenge was to evolve the technology for use against chemical agents. The core team of M2DCON, with a group of highly skilled engineers and scientists, were challenged with various scales of enclosures – from small benchtop set-ups to systems that could decontaminate complex spaces. These include office buildings, portable aircraft hangers, cargo, and tactical aircraft interior and exteriors.

Collaborative result
The R&D collaboration with ECBC led to the development of the JSEW/M334 Multi-Purpose Wipe, M333/GPD General Purpose Decontaminant, and the mVHP CBDS Chemical Biological Decontamination System – the first commercially available gaseous decontamination technology for chemical agent decontamination.

Seven years ago the M2DCON team successfully won their first acquisition award for the M334 Joint Service Equipment Wipe (JSEW) programme. In 2018, M2DCON was contracted to manufacture M333 General Purpose Decontaminant (GPD).

Multiple CBDS units are in use around the world and M2DCON supports their operators with ongoing maintenance, upgrades and support. In addition to production of these decontamination systems for the US DoD, M2DCON produces commercial off-the-shelf versions: CBR Multipurpose Wipe (JSEW), Decon PLUS (GPD), and Field GDS+ (CBDS).

M2DCON continues working to develop new and improved decontamination tools and to advance CBRNe technology through independent projects, joint efforts with the US Government, and collaborations with other companies.

A relationship with ADS Inc brings with it an experienced sales team actively seeking out customers’ equipment and logistics challenges. It can deliver their innovative and cost-effective solutions through multiple contract vehicles to CBRN and hazmat teams around the world.

We have engaged with DEVCOM CBC to continue research and development of technology. We are committed to serving those who protect and serve others by providing innovative and proven decontamination and collective protection consumable products and equipment. To remove the substance by the best means available is our primary objective.”
TIM MEILANDER, PRESIDENT OF M2DCON

New products
New products developed in the past couple of years include: DCON Mitts (all hazard microfibre mitts with a chemical barrier lining), GDS (gaseous decon systems for commercial and military), and ChemBarrier bags, ground tarpaulins, and retention pools.

These recent advances in technology are necessary to increase the effectiveness of decontamination methods and they continue to evolve. At some time in the future, these efforts could result in the development and deployment of a ‘NATO-accepted’ decon system for use by both the military and civil responders. At their current pace, M2DCON are well down the road to achieving this.

Kevin Cresswell is former UK Armed Forces and Law Enforcement. He is a special missions business development advisor to Defense Equipment Company, USA.

Image:
The Field GDS+ is an advanced portable chem-bio decontamination system (CBDS) suitable for decontaminating sensitive equipment, land vehicles and small to medium interiors.
©M2DCON