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
Additional studies by the Army also found the lotion to be
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material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or