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Mass Casualty Decontamination for Chemical Incidents: Research Outcomes and Future Priorities

Publication date: 

17 Mar 2021


Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(6), 3079


Collins S, James T, Carter H, Symons C, Southworth F, Foxall K, Marczylo T, Amlôt R

Publication type: 



Abstract Planning for major incidents involving the release of hazardous chemicals has been informed by a multi-disciplinary research agenda which has sought to inform all aspects of emergency response, but with a focus in recent years on mass casualty decontamination. In vitro and human volunteer studies have established the relative effectiveness of different decontamination protocols for a range of chemical agents. In parallel, a programme of research has focused on communicating with and managing large numbers of contaminated casualties at the scene of an incident. We present an accessible overview of the evidence underpinning current casualty decontamination strategies. We highlight where research outcomes can directly inform response planning, including the critical importance of beginning the decontamination process as soon as possible, the benefits of early removal of contaminated clothing, the evidence under-pinning dry and wet decontamination and how effective communication is essential to any decontamination response. We identify a range of priority areas for future research including establishing the significance of the ‘wash-in’ effect and developing effective strategies for the decontamination of hair. We also highlight several areas of future methodological development, such as the need for novel chemical simulants. Whilst considerable progress has been made towards incorporating research outcomes into operational policy and practice, we outline how this developing evidence-base might be used to inform future iterations of mass casualty decontamination guidance.