Do cold weather temperatures affect the efficacy of skin decontamination?
Journal of Applied Toxicology
Skin decontamination in cold weather temperatures might be challenging due to the aggravating circumstances. However, no information is available on the efficacy of commonly used procedures in winter conditions. Therefore, the efficacy of the reactive skin decontamination lotion (RSDL) and soapy water decontamination following skin exposure to the nerve agent VX was evaluated at three ambient air temperatures (-5°C, -15°C and room temperature). Experiments were performed in vitro using human
... matomed skin. The ability of RSDL to degrade VX at the three different air temperatures was separately evaluated. The ambient air temperature in experiments without decontamination did not influence the penetration rate of VX through skin. RSDL decontamination was highly efficient in removing VX from skin when performed in all three ambient temperatures, despite the slower agent degradation rate of VX at the lower temperatures. Decontamination with soapy water at RT resulted in an increased skin penetration of VX compared with the control without decontamination; however, in colder temperatures the VX skin penetration was similar to the corresponding control without decontamination. At RT, dry removal prior to washing with soapy water did not improve decontamination of VX compared with washing solely with soapy water. This study demonstrated high efficacy of RSDL decontamination following skin exposure to VX also at cold temperatures. The previously reported 'wash-in' effect of soapy water on VX skin penetration was reduced at cold temperatures. Altogether, this study found a scientific basis to establish guidelines for skin decontamination of chemical casualties at cold weather temperatures.