Drexel researchers propose formula on bioweapon decontamination risk

New research aims to increase the efficiency of the decontamination process in buildings affected by the release of a bioterror agent.

A team from Drexel University's Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering recently authored a study offering a method for responders to assess the risk to buildings from pathogens, such as anthrax, following the decontamination process and to determine when people can be sent in, according to HomelandSecurityWire.com.

"Bioterrorism continues to be a potential area of terrorist activity," Dr. Patrick Gurian, a study co-author, said, HomelandSecurityNewsWire.com reports. "Past bioterrorism attacks in the United States revealed that the U.S. lacked guidelines for a quick response to bioterrorism agents."

The current approach to decontamination is to scour the building until no pathogens are detected. The research suggests that finding pathogens depends greatly upon how extensively the sites are tested.

The Drexel team developed a mathematical formula to calculate the level of sampling and testing needed to mitigate the health risk in returning to the affected area. It is hoped that the process could speed up decontamination of buildings that do not pose a high residual risk of so resources can be focused on those areas where greater risk is present.

"To ensure that sampling efforts are sufficient to achieve targeted levels of human health protection requires a way to link residual contamination to human health risk," Gurian said, according to HomelandSecurityWire.com. "It is this link between environmental concentrations and human health risk that is provided by this paper."