Dry Decontamination is an Important Step in Chemical Decontamination

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), citing evidence in a peer-reviewed study, has added a new step to its decontamination guidance for chemical incidents. It calls for exposed people to first wipe themselves off with dry, absorbent materials, such as towels or washcloths before they pass through a water spray.

“Disrobing and dry decontamination are steps that can be taken by the affected individuals themselves under the direction of response personnel, without waiting for equipment set up. The addition of dry decontamination to the overall response also minimizes the accumulation of hazardous material in the subsequent decontamination steps.”

Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) Director, Rick Bright

Emergency plans should address how the community will take specific preparedness actions such as:

  • Making enough absorbent materials available on emergency response vehicles so that emergency dry decontamination can begin as quickly as possible.
  • Provide washcloths and towels for use in wet decontamination, and blankets or temporary clothes to protect patients from hypothermia afterward. Hypothermia would be of particular concern in the winter in colder areas.

Read More in the New HHS-Sponsored Research Provides New Tool and Updated Guidance on Mass Chemical Decontamination and Annals of Emergency Medicine “Evaluation of US Federal Guidelines (Primary Response Incident Scene Management [PRISM]) for Mass Decontamination of Casualties During the Initial Operational Response to a Chemical Incident”