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March 28, 2003
 
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Lotion May Aid Troops in Chemical Attack
FDA Approves Lotion to Help Soldiers Cleanse Skin in Event of Chemical Attack

The Associated Press


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WASHINGTON March 28

The government has approved a special skin lotion for U.S. soldiers to apply immediately after a chemical attack to neutralize otherwise potentially deadly weapons.

A lotion-soaked sponge is packaged in a special foil pouch that soldiers can carry, ready to rip open and wipe on any exposed skin as soon as possible after exposure to a chemical attack, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

The Pentagon said the new product could be available for U.S. soldiers by the end of April.

"If used in time, this lotion can help prevent the serious burns and deaths that result from exposure to chemical warfare agents," FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan said.

The lotion is called RSDL, for "reactive skin decontamination lotion." It is made by a Canadian company, O'Dell Engineering Ltd., and has been used for years by the Canadian military.

Some chemical weapons kill not just if they're inhaled but if they're absorbed through the skin. Immediately washing exposed skin, with soap and water or with different agents that target particular chemicals, is crucial to decontamination.

The RSDL product leaves a nontoxic residue that can be washed off later. It's expected to cost about $12 per packet, the Pentagon said in a statement Friday.

The FDA based its approval on U.S. Army tests that exposed laboratory animals to chemical-warfare agents and compared the resulting skin damage after treatment with either RSDL or other antidotes the Army already uses.

RSDL proved "far superior," McClellan said. "Most if not all of the damage associated with the agent was eliminated."

That's because the old decontaminating powder only absorbs and removes the chemical agents, while RSDL actually neutralizes the poisons, the Pentagon statement said.

McClellan said that while RSDL worked best if applied within minutes of exposure, before the chemical penetrated below the skin's surface, it did offer some protection if that absorption had begun.

Additional studies by the Army also found the lotion to be safe.

The Canadian company said its RSDL lotion rapidly covers exposed skin and mixes with a broad range of chemical warfare agents, including sarin, VX and mustard, to break them down. The FDA said it also works against a fungal toxin.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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