An evaluation of suspicious powder screening tools for first responders

J Hazard Mater. 2009 Dec 30;172(2-3):559-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2009.05.142. Epub 2009 Jun 9.


Field screening tools are required which would allow first responders to quickly ascertain if a suspicious powder poses a potential threat necessitating additional testing for biological pathogens such as Bacillus anthracis. In this study, three commercially available generic screening technologies were evaluated for the effectiveness to accurately differentiate between a hoax powder and a true biological threat. The BioCheck Kit was able to detect the following biological agents 1 x 10(8)CFU of B. anthracis Sterne (washed 4 times), 1x10(7)CFU of B. anthracis DeltaSterne (washed 2 times), 1 x 10(7)CFU of Yersinia pestis A1122, and 100 microg of ricin. The Prime Alert kit was able to detect 2 x 10(10)CFU of B. anthracis DeltaSterne 4x, 1 x 10(9)CFU of B. anthracis DeltaSterne 2x, and 1 x 10(8)CFU of Y. pestis A1122. The Prime Alert kit was not able to detect ricin. The Profile-1 kit was able to detect 1 x 10(4)CFU of B. anthracis DeltaSterne 4x and B. anthracis DeltaSterne 2x, and 1 x 10(6)CFU of Y. pestis A1122. The Profile-1 kit was not able to detect ricin. All of the kits showed positive results for powders containing components specifically targeted by the particular technology being used. Each technology assessed in this evaluation employs a different mechanism for the detection of biological materials and it is important that first responders are aware of the strengths and the limitations of each system so that they can effectively employ the technology to protect the homeland.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus anthracis / isolation & purification
  • Bioterrorism / prevention & control*
  • Methods
  • Powders / analysis*
  • Powders / chemistry
  • Ricin / analysis
  • Yersinia pestis / isolation & purification


  • Powders
  • Ricin