Emergency Biological Decontamination Solutions

Emergency Biological Decontamination Solutions
Emergency Biological Decontamination Solutions
By Robert J. Heyer, D.Sc.
During times of biohazard emergency large amounts of sewage and other biological contaminants will
present heath issues. Sewerage, rotting foods, animal carcasses, and human remains can all pose a
health risk to responders. Large-scale decontamination methods will be required. Different solutions can
be used to decontaminate property and persons exposed to biological contaminates. The information
presented here is for academic consideration and the author assumes no liability or responsibility for its
Bleach Solutions- Liquid bleach solution works well as a general biological decontamination solution for
equipment and property. The problem is it does not provide large qualities of solution. Straight out of the
bottle liquid bleach is in an approximately 5% concentration. An effective solution can be prepared my
mixing one part of liquid bleach with nine parts of water. This will make an approximately 0.5% solution.
The solution can be applied by commercial sprayer, bottle sprayer, or brushed on. It is important to leave
the solution on and for a time to allow the proper amount of contact time. It takes time for the solution to
kill viruses and spores so give it plenty of contact time before removing with fresh water.
The decontamination of living persons should not use straight liquid bleach. Most authorities recommend
the 0.5% bleach solution for use on skin. Never let the solution come in contact with eyes. Never mix
bleach with ammonia as a very dangerous gas may be produced. For decontamination of property such
as glasses and jewelry use a 5% bleach solution. Make sure with any bleach solution that it is allowed to
sit for at least fifteen minutes before it is removed. This contact time is necessary to kill the germs and
Larger quantities of bleach solutions can best prepared using commercial pool products. Follow the
directions on the individual products for mixing. In no instructions is available mix a 25 Lb. pail of calcium
hypochlorite to about 60 gallons of water to give you an approximately 4% bleach solution. Like with liquid
bleach allow proper contact time.
Soap and Water- Soap and water makes a good personal decontamination. Washing with copious
amounts of hot soapy water will remove most biological contaminates from emergency responders who
have been exposed to contaminated water. Soap and water is about the only material that can be used
on the eyes. It will be painful but they eyes can be washed with soap and water followed by flushing with
large amounts of clean water. As always it is important to seek medical advice before starting any
decontamination procedures on living people or animals.
Alcohol- Alcohol solutions can be used to decontaminate hard non-porous surfaces and personal
property. 70% alcohol solutions will be effective on most biological contaminates. The major drawback is
that alcohol is flammable and explosive. It should never be used where there is open flame or spark.
Small superficial cuts can be decontaminated with 70% ethyl or isopropyl alcohol followed by flushing with
clean water. Don’t use on deep wounds without guidance from medical personal.
Personal Decontamination- If possible, the very best thing you can do is taking a long soapy shower in
warm water. Before you enter any structure remove as much of your outer clothing as possible and your
shoes. Be sure to shower in warm water using plenty of soap. Wash your hair with detergent shampoo
and scrub head to toe, starting at your head and working to your feet. If a decontamination team is
available they will decontaminate you on the scene.
If none of the above is available, remove as much outer clothing as possible and rinse with copious
amounts of water. A decontamination solution can be made from common liquid bleach. Use one part of
bleach out of the bottle to nine parts of water. This can be used on all parts of the body except your face.
Keep bleach well away from your eyes. Remember never to mix with ammonia as a poisonous gas can
result. Be sure to allow the bleach solution to remain in contact with your skin and clothes for fifteen
minutes to allow time to kill any biological agents on you.
Equipment Decontamination- To decontaminate your equipment use full strength bleach. Bleach right out
of the bottle should be 5% sodium hypochlorite in strength. Wipe or spray the solution over large
equipment. Soak smaller equipment in a bucket filled with bleach. Allow at least a half hour of contact
time before flushing with fresh water. With all decontamination of biological agents it is very important to
allow proper contact time to kill the agent and its spores. If you use a solution other than bleach to
decontaminate be sure to read the instructions for a proper contact time.
Decontamination Stations
Locate the station upwind of the hazard.
Set up a windsock to monitor wind shifts.
Use protective clothing for team members.
Contain all run-off generated.
Enclose and heat the station in below freezing temperatures.
Have police at station to maintain order.
Cover entire ground with tarps if possible.
Keep records of all people decontaminated.
Have separate men and woman's stations when possible.
Send to medical evaluation team.
Basic Supplies
Pre-formed children's pools.
Laundry soap.
Wash tubs.
Liquid bleach.
Protective clothing.
Disposable gowns.
Garbage bags.
Notebook and pen.
Chemical handbooks.
Garden hoses and hose wands.
Spray bottles.
General Decontamination Procedure
1. Remove visible signs of contamination by physical means such as scraping, blotting, or brushing it off.
2. Remove jewelry, contact lenses or glasses from the victim and bag for decontamination.
3. Carefully remove the victim's clothing by pulling it away from the victim's body. Never remove anything
over the head; cut it away instead.
4. Wash the face and hands of the victim. Use warm water and soap if available.
5. Starting at the neck and working down, decontaminate the victim's body. Use soap and water if
available and have them lather as you rinse with water.
6. Give clean clothing to the victim.
7. Record the victim's name and address, as well as the time of decontamination. Tag the victim's
belongings bag for later decontamination or disposal.
The following resource books should be on scene at all decontamination operations:
Emergency Response Guidebook, DOT
Decontamination for Hazardous Materials Emergencies, Delmar Publications
Chem-Bio: Frequently Asked Questions, Tempest Publishing
First Responder, Chem-Bio Handbook, Tempest Publishing
Jane's Chem-Bio Handbook, Jane's Information Group
Information presented in this document, although believed to be accurate, is intended only for
professional and academic consideration. Neither DERA, the author, nor the editors assume any
liability resulting from the use of this information, nor for its accuracy, applicability or
Views and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily
represent DERA or other organizations or persons.
Dr. Heyer may be contacted at: [email protected]
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