Chemical indicator for first responders

December 2004 Fire & Safety, Access Control & Identity Management

A new product for first responders and other special teams has just been introduced to South Africa. Called the HazMat Smart-Strip, it is a disposable reagent strip card featuring a number of reagent squares which change colour when exposed to very low levels of dangerous chemicals. These include chlorine (and bromine), oxidising agents, cyanide, fluorides, sulphides, arsenic, as well as nerve and mustard gases (chemical warfare agents). Also included on the strip is a pH indicator that changes colour if the pH level moves above or below 7,0. The product has been tested by an ISO 17025 laboratory and by the US military.

The chemical detection 'warning badge' can be stored for up to two years and on activation will remain operational for up to 12 hours. It has been adopted by police, fire departments, emergency response vehicles (ambulances), hazardous material teams and the military. While the latter have electronic systems for the detection of chemical warfare agents these expensive systems are not currently provided to every soldier so the Smart-Strip provides early warning for the individual. The Smart-Strip is also used in hospital emergency rooms to cope with the problem of the admission of a contaminated patient, and by some airlines to ensure that contaminated cargo or luggage is not loaded onto an aircraft.

The Smart-Strip comes with a peel and stick backing or it can be clipped to the user's clothing. The eight reagents are self-contained and are activated by removing the protective covering. Identification of the presence of a harmful substance is made easy as each indicator layer is surrounded by a colour standard. Changes from this standard indicates presence of the substance, with oxidisers for example deviating from white to a blue/violet colour and the presence of cyanide causing a transition from green to blue. Reaction time to exposure is effectively instantaneous.

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