ECBC Forensic Analytical Laboratory achieves top grade from OPCW

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Forensic Analytical Center announced on Wednesday that it received an "A" grade in an international proficiency test done by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The ECBC Forensic Analytical Center, one of two OPCW designated laboratories in the United Sates, is a leader in the area of forensic analysis and monitoring the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Out of the 12 labs worldwide that took part in this test, the Forensic Analytical Center was one of only two that received an "A."

The grading was done by giving tests to the participating labs. These tests were realistic, challenging samples that had to be analyzed and identified within 15 days of receiving the samples.

"The goal of preparing the test is to replicate real world samples, however the labs preparing the samples know what compounds might hide or mimic reportable compounds, so the test samples are likely more difficult than real world samples," Forensic Analytical Center Chief Dr. Stan Ostazeski said. "They want to make these tests as difficult as they can to ensure that we really can handle threats."

Before the actual testing began, the OPCW published a scenario that gave some clues on what the test would involve. Knowing if the samples would be soil, organic solvent, surface material or water helped all the participating laboratories prepare a toolbox for the test. After this, the real sample was released to the labs.

"During the 15 days of testing, we turn our conference room into a war room," Dr. Ostazeski said. "We eat pizza and sweets, lock the gates and go to work. Essentially we live in the labs. All other work stops, unless something of national importance happens. Even if it does, that work must be done in parallel with the testing."