Decontaminants

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Decontaminants

 

chemical compounds that react vigorously with toxic gases and convert them to nontoxic compounds.

The variety of toxic substances has given rise to decontaminants of a variety of chemical properties. Water may be considered a decontaminating agent, decomposing toxic materials at various rates (fastest and most completely, by boiling). It is used only for decontaminating clothing and in certain antigas equipment. Decontaminants with oxidizingchlorinating action (calcium or sodium salts of hypochlorous acid, the hypochlorites, and various chloramines) are more effective. Under ordinary conditions aqueous solutions and hypochlorite suspensions oxidize mustard gas and decompose toxic organophosphorous compounds, converting them to nontoxic products. The most readily available is calcium hypochlorite, or chlorinated lime. It is used dry or in aqueous suspension to decontaminate roads or terrain. Aqueous suspensions can also be used to decontaminate buildings and transportation facilities. Hypochlorites are not effective for decontamination at temperatures near 0°C; solutions of chloramines (for example, chloramine B) in organic solvents, such as alcohol or dichloroethane, are used instead. Chloramines are also used to prepare gas casualty first aid kits and for the decontamination of war materiel and terrain. Chloramines chlorinate mustard gas to nontoxic products. However, these decontaminants are not satisfactory for all toxic organophosphorous gases. For example, while they are good decontamints for substances of the V-gas type, they are useless for sarin and soman. Hence, use is made not only of oxidizing-chlorinating decontaminants but also of alkaline agents (caustic alkalies, sodium carbonate, and ammonia). Decontaminants based on certain sodium alkoxides and amines (DS-2, USA) are active against all types of toxic gases. Their decontaminating action is based on the dehydrochlorination of mustard gas and the alcoholysis of toxic organophosphorous gases.

Various organic solvents (motor fuels, alcohols) and detergent solutions may be included among the decontaminants. However, their use only offers physical decontamination (removal of the toxic material through solution or emulsification), which is always incomplete and, in a number of cases, inadequate.

REFERENCE

Aleksandrov, V. N. Otravliaiushchie vestchestva. Moscow, 1969.

I. T. PENZULAEV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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