Proengin introduces a new CBRN protection system to cope with opioids.

Opioid threats are rising for civilian and CBRNe specialist teams. Hazmat, firefighter, EMS and law enforcement teams playing a crucial role on the front line are facing an increase of potential exposure to opioids and other PBAs (pharmaceutical-based agents). In many cases they encounter a suspect powder on scene and need to define the potency of that substance. They need an easy-to-use tool to confirm on the scene if they have to take specific precautions to operate.

Fentanyl and derivatives
The opioid crisis in the United States began in 1996, when pharmaceutical companies widely promoted the use of opioids. The best known opioid is fentanyl, but there are other synthetic opioids (pethidine, methadone, tramadol) as well as fentanyl derivatives (alfentanyl, sufentanyl, remifentanyl, carfentanyl) produced by pharmaceutical laboratories.

Fentanyl is a powerful anaesthetic and analgesic with a potential effectiveness one hundred times greater than morphine. In hospital settings, this opioid plays an important role in anaesthetics and pain relief. Fentanyl is among the pharmacologically ‘cleanest’ opioids – with few adverse effects.

The effects of these products on humans generally compare to the effects of morphine. Assuming 1 effect for morphine, there are five times more effects for heroin, 100 times more for fentanyl, and 10,000 times more for carfentanyl.

The increase in potency easily led to greater numbers of drug abuse. In 2015, medical prescriptions were attributed to 1,000 overdoses per week. However, most of the overdoses were then due to fentanyl sold illegally via drug dealers.

Bioterror potential
These highly potent, cheap drugs along with their widespread availability also pose an imminent threat as they could be weaponised and used as an act of terrorism.

The Doubrovka theatre event in Moscow in 2002 used a mixture of remifentanil and carfentanil against Chechen terrorists who had taken civilians captive, resulting in 123 fatalities. While in 2002 this capability was reserved for developed military forces such as those fielded by Russia, it is possible that today’s well-trained terrorists could be capable of reproducing this type of dispersion.

Field-proven technology 
AP4C Technology (Hydrogen Flame Photometric Detector) recognises the atmospheric presence of specific atoms such as sulphur, phosphorus, nitrogen in organic compounds, and arsenic. The handheld AP4C device continuously detects and does not rely on a library as it performs an elementary detection of atoms.

The molecules are broken down into simple elements and produce characteristic photons for each of the elements detectable by the device. The coupled AP4C and S4PE solution has been deployed worldwide for many years and has proven to be ‘the solution of choice’ for all the teams operating on the front line and potentially facing CWA substances.

The S4PF
As the variety of threats increased, Proengin developed a new sampling field solution covering both PBA and CWA threats – S4PF. It was essential to reach this objective with a small, rustic and rugged package with a user-friendly design.

S4PF allows liquid and powder to be collected and analysed, thanks to a two-stage operating principle:

  1. The S4PF scraper covered with a microporous material behaves like a sponge in contact with deposited liquids and powders.
  2. The scraper quickly warms to evaporate the collected substances, then the purging air carries the evaporated substance into the appliance burner.

Even if a substance is in a solid or liquid state at room temperature, there is a natural vapour pressure exerted above the liquid or solid.

S4PF plays on Clapeyron’s law – as the vapour pressure of the substance is multiplied by the area of the air-substance interface.

In the case of fentanyl (and other PBAs), between 200°C and 300°C (392°F/572°F), fentanyl begins to decompose among degradation products that contain at least one nitrogen atom. Their boiling point is much lower than the heating temperature of the scraper, which ensures their total evaporation.

The extreme AP4C detector sensitivity makes the measurement possible during the vapour phase.

A unique approach on the market, the coupled AP4C/S4PF solution is distinct from other detection solutions that generally only work on gases – such as IMS technology based instruments – or from analytical solutions where sampling collection on the field might be challenging when in full CBRN gear.

AP4C Technology has proven to be a ‘must have’ for CBRNe teams around the world in all CWA-related detection standard operation procedures as well as for industrial hazardous events, involving the presence of TICs/TIMs.

Proengin’s experience
Drawing on the company’s experience of close to 50 years in the field of chemical and biological detection with the armed forces, Proengin detectors have been specially designed to be used in severe environments of temperature, humidity and dust, and to respond to the highest demands from CBRNe, hazmat, and law enforcement teams.

Although the organisation is mainly known for its handled AP4C, Proengin has also been successful in developing and deploying fully integrated solutions for critical infrastructures, armoured vehicles and naval vessels – such as the recent integration on the Scorpion vehicle programme (French Army) and the Gowind Frigates (Naval Group).

These recent commercial successes demonstrate the capacity for innovation, adaptability and system integration skills. Proengin also provides its maintenance services, technical support and training throughout the world with an extensive network of partners in many countries.

Gautier Mallet is Marketing & Business Development Director at Proengin. He has more than 15 years’ experience in threat detection solutions for military and civilian applications.

Sampling solution allows the front-line team to collect and detect not only gases, but also suspect powder or liquid.