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  1. #1
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    Default Decontamination question

    Really basic question here- bear with me. I'm a chemist with substantial HAZ-MAT experience, along with training in human physiology, toxicology, and s forth. I have yet to receive a good answer to this question; hopefully someone here will know.

    For years (going back to at least 1989, when I started), we've been told to use cold water for decontamination. This is reportedly to reduce absorption from skin pores opening with hot water, increasing surface area and retention of chemicals on the skin.

    My question is this: Is there any basis in fact to this assertion? Has it ever been tested? Are there any papers that corroborate this statement? Or is it simply something that makes sense, but may or may not work in the real world but because of being repeated often enough is now gospel?

    I figure it probably has some basis in fact, and that it probably hails from the nuclear realm, where it is much easier to determine levels of contamination and effectiveness of decontamination using relatively inexpensive handheld devices. But I'd be interested in understanding how cold water is measurably better than tepid, warm, or hot for decontamination purposes. One assumes there are other physiological considerations, i.e.: level of stress and exertion on the part of the individual being decontaminated, where the pores may be open and using cold water will cause them to shut, making decontamination more difficult.


  2. #2
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    Default

    You are correct as the reason. As you know warm water opens the pores. Thus, this would allow further absorption of the contaminate into the body. Cold water will not allow the pores to open, but will shock them to close. After decontaminating thoroughly, there is no reason that they cannot take a warm shower to rewarm their bodies. Sometimes common sense is all it takes. The same theory applies for MVA victims. Cold shower to remove glass, warm water will allow the glass to go deeper into the skin.
    Jason Brooks
    IAFF Local 2388
    IACOJ

  3. #3
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jbrescue View Post
    You are correct as the reason. As you know warm water opens the pores. Thus, this would allow further absorption of the contaminate into the body. Cold water will not allow the pores to open, but will shock them to close. After decontaminating thoroughly, there is no reason that they cannot take a warm shower to rewarm their bodies. Sometimes common sense is all it takes. The same theory applies for MVA victims. Cold shower to remove glass, warm water will allow the glass to go deeper into the skin.
    Right- but has anyone actually done a controlled study to see if it actually works this way? Is there any research to prove this is the case?

    After all, most compounds are more soluble in warm water than cold, and oily materials are usually less viscous at higher temperatures.

    Is the "cold water = better" something that has been handed down over the years without any empirical testing?

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Default Warm water decon

    Here in the UK we have been heating our water for clinical decontamination for at least the last seven years. (Emergency decon by the fire service is still undertaken with water straight from the hydrant.) The concept of promoting dermal absorption has never even occured to me prior to reading your post. In reality is it not likely that the patient has been merrily absorbing the agent through thier pores for a good while waiting for decon to be provided? The theory sounds great, hot water opening the pores and any free agent making its way in but one of the the purposes of the pores opening under heat stimuli is to release sweat and might that not work in our favour? As you point out, heated water will provide a better medium for removal of most contaminants, (unless there is something activated by heat?) and is far more comfortable for the patient. This is especially important during an average English summer! Cold water decon will not only upset the patient but may well exacerbate the effects of the agent by adding hypothermia into the mix.
    Warm water decon does however work the other way during hot weather and drastically limits the endurance of the operators.
    I would be very interested to read any research you do manage to uncover regarding this question.

  5. #5
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    Default

    City officials would never go for heated hydrants.

  6. #6
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    Mar 2007
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    Default

    I will double check with Chemical Defense Training Facility when I get back to Post and get you all the specs on what is done and why, if you would like If anyone would know they should. When we train we use cold water out of a pipe connection

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