Kirk testifies on chemical threat response

Mark Kirk, the director of the Office of Health Affairs' (OHA) Threats Resilience Division's Chemical Defense Program, on Thursday provided written testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security on chemical agents and response measures.
Kirk opened his testimony recounting attacks that have occurred globally in the past three decades including the sarin attacks on a subway in Tokyo nearly 20 years ago and when a train derailed in 2005 and released chlorine gas that killed nine people and injured hundreds more in the Graniteville, S.C. area. He also detailed the release of industrial chemicals in Bhopal, India in 1984. Keeping these events in mind, he said it is important to discuss chemical defense, especially since this year is a major anniversary for two of these tragedies.
Kirk went on to say that chemical threats can be planned as the chemical's behavior and effects on human health are not likely to change. Chemical incidents have patterns that governments and emergency personnel can plan and be prepared for when the need arises. Time is a crucial factor, Kirk said. Preventative measures and treatment of those affected need to occur as soon as possible to have any benefit.
He explained that the Chemical Defense Program is seeking to develop preparedness training for personnel at federal, state and local government levels. The OHA has information available on toxicology and emergency workforce protection, and it also works with communities to bolster their levels of preparedness.
Kirk closed by urging for the findings and data to influence improved response capabilities and implementing them.

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