Brussels. Paris. London. Boston. These are just some of the places that have experienced devastation due to the uptick in “kitchen menace.” This trend, which is sweeping the Safety & Security industry, involves individuals combining supplies commonly available at hardware stores to create weapons of mass destruction.
In recent years, criminals have been using a white crystalline powder with a strong chemical odor called triacetone triperoxide (TATP) much for more frequently to create these weapons. The name evokes images of complicated labs or underground networks full of advanced chemists, but the truth is that this destructive compound can be made with everyday products – many of which can be easily bought at the nearest drugstore.
TATP is just one of many explosives, poisons and intoxicants that fall into the “kitchen menace” category. TATP can be produced using hydrogen peroxide, a mild antiseptic often used to prevent infection, and acetone, most typically found in cosmetic products like nail-polish remover and hair bleach. Both of these products can be easily purchased at your nearest grocery or hardware store, as they have many industrial and personal uses. However, combining them under the right chemical conditions can result in a terrifyingly destructive agent of warfare that has repeatedly rocked cities and resulted in numerous lives lost.
To make matters worse, TATP and other acetone peroxide based explosive chemicals, do not contain nitrogen. This component is often found in “fertilizer” bombs and one that security scanners, such as nitrogen bomb detectors, have grown very good at identifying.
With the threat of potentially imperceptible, homemade bombs are on the rise, first responders are looking to new advances in detection technologies to bring speed and accuracy to these high stakes situations. Currently, there are a variety of tools that can be readily called upon by responders, such as ion mobility spectrometry, Raman, and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). Despite their extensive capabilities, no single technique or approach can handle the wide array of challenges faced today. Although the responder toolkit is robust, gaps remain for downrange chemical identification. This is why a combination of tools, that mixes legacy tools with newer, innovative ones, is so vital.
To adapt to this new threat landscape and prevent future attacks, the State of Massachusetts’ Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Division incorporated eleven of our M908TM devices into the toolkits for its first responders. The handheld, purpose-built device is designed to fill the gaps left by today’s legacy tools, enabling users to quickly, easily and accurately detect and identify a wider range of threat materials. This innovative technology brings the advanced analysis capabilities for CBRNE detection, that were previously only available in a lab setting, right to the point of action for a rapid response in situations when every second counts.
The below case study highlights a real world example of how the State of Massachusetts leveraged M908 to make a positive TATP identification just 10 miles south of Boston. This case study further demonstrates how new tools, like M908, are helping first responders head off terrorists’ activities at the pass by quickly and safely identifying threats, even those stemming from commonly used substances, before they can cause harm.