The guiding principles in personal decontami- nation are to avoid spreading contamination, to clean contaminated areas, and to manage casualties without aggravating other injuries.
The decontamination of chemical hazards can be accomplished by removing, neutralizing, or destroying the chemical warfare (CW) agents. The purpose of personal decontamination is to remove toxic substances from your body or personal equipment before serious injury occurs. Examples of these principles are as follows:
Removing: pinch-blotting the agent from your skin
Neutralizing: using the M291 or M258A1 decontamination kit to make the agent harmless
Destroying: burning or burying a contaminated cloth that was used to blot off the agent
Self-aid or personal decontamination is solely your responsibility. If tactical conditions at the time of exposure require you to keep fighting, you must decontaminate at the earliest opportunity.
There are definite time limits after which self-aid becomes useless, so immediate personal decontamination is important if you are exposed to CW agents. Decontamination by either neutralizing or removing the agent, or both, should be carried out before serious injury occurs. You may have to rely on whatever you have on hand to remove these agents from your skin, eyes, or equipment. If liquid nerve or blister agents touch any part of your body, you must remove them rapidly, for these agents can quickly penetrate the skin. If you are caught without the M291 or M258A1 decontamination kit or soap and water, then use anything that is available. It may be mud, gun oil, or even urine. A crude remover may get off only two-thirds of the agent, but it is better than nothing. When you are removing any agent from your body with soap and water, scrub your body just as vigorously as a physician scrubs his/her hands before an operation. Exposed regions and hairy areas should be given extra attention.
Speed is essential in self-aid. You may not know whether you have been contaminated with liquid nerve or blister agents, the following standard procedures must be observed to prevent injury from liquid agents.
Decontaminate the eyes and face, if necessary
Put on a protective mask
Use the M291 or M258A1 kit for decontamination of the skin
Throw away any contaminated clothing (or cut away the contaminated parts)
Use the antidote injector only if you experience the symptoms produced by nerve agents
The self-aid procedures for specific agents given later should be employed if the agent has been identified.
If chemical agents contact your skin, you must take immediate action to decontaminate yourself. Start the skin decontamination (or decon) within 1 minute of becoming contaminated. Some toxic chemical agents, especially nerve agents, are rapidly absorbed by the skin and can kill in minutes.
If you do not have a skin decon kit, chemical contamination may be pinch-blotted from the skin with a cloth and then flushed with water. Pinch-blotting is better than rubbing because it limits the spread of contamination. Soap, if available, can also be used to wash the agent from the skin. Washing with soap and water (or hot water) is the next best method for toxic agent decon. This method is not as effective as using the decon kits.
Self-Aid for Blister Agents
Blister agents are usually released as gases and have the odor of garlic, fish, or geraniums.
FOR THE EYES. - If a blister agent gets in your eyes, treat them instantly. Every second counts. If there is no pain in your eyes, treat them with water only (as described next). If there is pain in your eyes, flush the eyes with water and seek medical aid immediately.
Flush the eyes with water. The best method is to tilt the head back so that the eyes look straight up. Pull the lids apart with the fingers of one hand. With the other hand, pour water slowly into the eyes. Try to regulate the flow of water so the flushing lasts not less than 30 seconds and not more than 2 minutes.
Speed in decontaminating the eyes is absolutely essential. Decontamination will be very effective for mustard agents if it is applied within the first few seconds; after 2 minutes it has little benefit. 13-35Continue Reading