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Mass Spectrometers Protect Soldiers in Iraq

Mass spectrometers act as sensitive chemical warfare detectors to protect troops in war on Iraq.

With troops from the US, UK and Australia now deployed in Iraq, the soldiers are grateful for the powerful chemical warfare detection equipment being used in Iraq. The $US20,000 portable GC-mass spectrometers can detect the faintest trace of chemical agents used as weapons in the environment and are being used ahead of troop movements to provide protection.

The possibility of chemical attack scares most soldiers. "No military in the world is as well trained or equipped as we are to deal with a chemical or biological attack," says Lt. David Chasteen of the US Marines and soldiers have been ordered to remain in chemical suits for the duration of the fighting.

In the event of a chemical attack all of the troops' personal belongings, anything that is exposed to chemical agents, will be incinerated by decontamination units. Major Paul Dunn, of Provo, an air defense officer, is a former teacher at Brigham Young University and father of five. He emphasized the threat of chemical attack dampens any sense of optimism. "We'll be attacking them in their own back yard and chances are very good that they will use chemical weapons at some point," Dunn said.

The Iraqi military is so technologically inferior that Dunn said he is not that worried about its conventional weapons. However, he said, "it takes only a single officer to fire off one round of a chemical or binary agent and you can have massive casualties."


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