Sulfur mustard (SM, mustard gas) is a chemical warfare vesicant that rapidly penetrates the skin due to its hydrophobicity. This study measured the rate of SM disappearance from the skin after topical application of the vesicant. In both fur-covered and hairless animals, the remaining toxicant levels measured 60 min after exposure to undiluted SM were 0.6% and 0.3%, respectively, of the initially applied SM amount. However, SM concentration reached 0.4% of the initial dose 3 h following exposure in female fur-covered guinea pigs. SM quantities extracted from skin of male fur-covered and hairless guinea pigs immediately after 16 min of exposure to SM vapor were 12.2 and 21.8 μg, respectively; levels declined to 1.6 and 1.7 μg at 30 and 15 min following termination of exposure of male fur-covered and hairless guinea pigs, respectively. Three swabbing treatments of undiluted SM-exposed skin with gauze pads soaked in 0.5% hypochlorite caused 68% reduction in skin SM content. Similar findings were obtained when hypochlorite was replaced by water (64% reduction). SM content in the gauze pads was 59, 38 and 25 μg, respectively, for the first, second and third decontamination processes with water. No SM was detected in the gauze pads soaked with hypochlorite. In vitro studies showed that incubation of SM with 0.5% hypochlorite at a ratio of 10:1 (v/v) did not cause SM inactivation, whereas 4% hypochlorite reduced SM levels by 17%. However, at a decontaminant:SM ratio of 1000:1, 0.5% and 4% hypochlorite reduced SM levels by 92% and 99%, respectively. These findings are important for health authorities and regulatory agencies in planning precautionary steps to be taken in case of emergency and in routine laboratory work.
- Mustard gas
- Topical exposure