Objectives: Most ambulatory victims of a terrorist chemical attack will have exposure to vapor only. The study objective was to measure the duration of chemical vapor release from various types of clothing.
Methods: A chemical agent was simulated using methyl salicylate (MeS), which has similar physical properties to sulfur mustard and was the agent used in the U.S. Army's Man-In-Simulant Test (MIST). Vapor concentration was measured with a Smiths Detection Advanced Portable Detector (APD)-2000 unit. The clothing items were exposed to vapor for 1 hour in a sealed cabinet; vapor concentration was measured at the start and end of each exposure. Clothing was then removed and assessed every 5 minutes with the APD-2000, using a uniform sweep pattern, until readings remained 0.
Results: Concentration and duration of vapor release from clothing varied with clothing composition and construction. Lightweight cotton shirts and jeans had the least trapped vapor; down outerwear, the most. Vapor concentration near the clothing often increased for several minutes after the clothing was removed from the contaminated environment. Compression of thick outerwear released additional vapor. Mean times to reach 0 ranged from 7 minutes for jeans to 42 minutes for down jackets.
Conclusions: This simulation model of chemical vapor release demonstrates persistent presence of simulant vapor over time. This implies that chemical vapor may be released from the victims' clothing after they are evacuated from the site of exposure, resulting in additional exposure of victims and emergency responders. Insulated outerwear can release additional vapor when handled. If a patient has just moved to a vapor screening point, immediate assessment before additional vapor can be released from the clothing can lead to a false-negative assessment of contamination.