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Foam gets its shot at anthrax

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1:08pm, November 13, 2001

A recently developed chemical cocktail that kills anthrax spores and breaks down chemical warfare agents has received its first real-world trials in anthrax cleanups this past month.

The substance, often formulated as a foam, can also be a fog or mist, says Cecelia Williams of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., where the foam was developed. The brew contains chemicals similar to surfactants in hair conditioner and oxidizers in toothpaste, and it offers an alternative to other cleanup chemicals, such as chlorine dioxide gas.

Laboratory tests and military field trials have shown that the cocktail kills anthrax spores. After the surfactants soften a spore's outer coating, the oxidizers get inside the bacterium and break it down, says Williams.

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