In the tricky world of challenge inspections (Ed: not that we have ever had one yet) or accusations of the use of chemical weapons (Ed: Now those we have lots of!) one thorny issue has plagued many planners. What do you do if the agent has dissiminated or broken down before you get there with a response team capable of sampling. SIBCRA (Sampling and Identification of Biological, Chemical, Radiological Agents) has long had the task in the UK of taking those samples and AEP10 and AEP 49 (soon to be AEP66) had detailed that soil and flora should be sampled. This was generally actually due to deposition of agent, but a new study by the UK military research establishment, Dstl, has been able to show that agent, taken up by plants, can then be extracted and identified.
Though this may seem quite simple, and it is a little strange how it hasn’t been considered before, this breakthrough now potentially extends the window for sampling and proving the presence of an agent at a site up to 28 days later. Further work will look at extending this window and other flora other than the mustard plant, but it remains a very exciting discovery.
Further details on the work by Matthew Baker and Matthew Gravett can be found here