Evaluating the impact of decontamination interventions performed in sequence for mass casualty chemical incidents

Samuel Collins*, Natalie Williams, Felicity Southworth, Thomas James, Louise Davidson, Emily Orchard, Tim Marczylo, Richard Amlôt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Initial Operational Response (IOR) to chemical incidents is a suite of rapid strategies including evacuation, disrobe and improvised and interim decontamination. IOR and Specialist Operational Response (SOR) decontamination protocols involving mass decontamination units would be conducted in sequence by UK emergency services following a chemical incident, to allow for safe onward transfer of casualties. As part of a series of human volunteer studies, we examined for the first time, the effectiveness of UK IOR and SOR decontamination procedures alone and in sequence. Specifically, we evaluated the additional contribution of SOR, when following improvised and interim decontamination. Two simulants, methyl salicylate (MeS) with vegetable oil and benzyl salicylate (BeS), were applied to participants’ skin. Participants underwent improvised dry, improvised wet, interim wet, specialist decontamination and a no decontamination control. Skin analysis and UV photography indicated significantly lower levels of both simulants remaining following decontamination compared to controls. There were no significant differences in MeS levels recovered between decontamination conditions. Analysis of BeS, a more persistent simulant than MeS, showed that recovery from skin was significantly reduced following combined IOR with SOR than IOR alone. These results show modest additional benefits of decontamination interventions conducted in sequence, particularly for persistent chemicals, supporting current UK operational procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14995
Number of pages6
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This paper is based on independent research commissioned and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Policy Research Programme (PR‐ST‐1015‐10016). Samuel Collins and Tom James are part-funded by the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Chemicals and Radiation Threats and Hazards (CRTH) at Imperial College London, Tim Marczylo is part-funded by the HPRU in CRTH and the HPRU in Health Impacts of Environmental Hazards at Imperial College London and Richard Amlôt is part‐funded by the HPRU in Emergency Preparedness and Response at King’s College London. The views expressed in the publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, arms-length bodies or other Government departments.

Open Access: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not
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Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2021

Citation: Collins, S., Williams, N., Southworth, F. et al. Evaluating the impact of decontamination interventions performed in sequence for mass casualty chemical incidents. Sci Rep 11, 14995 (2021).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-94644-0


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