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Review of the Department of Defense Research Program on Low-Level Exposures to Chemical Warfare Agents
The DOD Low-Level Chemical Working Group was formed to develop research programs within the DOD Chemical and Biological Defense Program to understand the health effects of exposure to low-level CWAs, to defend against such exposure, to prevent unnecessary duplication of research efforts, and to focus and direct scientific investigations to address operational issues. The DOD Master Research Plan (Research Plan) developed for this research effort addresses research on operationally relevant performance decrements and delayed adverse health effects that potentially may be associated with low-level exposures to CWAs.
The objective of the Research Plan is to fully characterize the toxicity of CWAs to enable rational military decision making for issues related to doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facilities; that plan also addresses research on operationally relevant performance decrements. The Research Plan includes, but is not limited to, scientifically credible data necessary to answer questions about decision making in operational risk management; the range of sensitivities needed for detectors, sensors, and alarms; the efficiency needed for individual and collective protection systems; the effectiveness of decontamination measures and procedures; restoration of normal military operations; return of previously contaminated materiel to “normal” use; adverse long-term health sequelae; as yet unrecognized outcomes of exposure; and medical diagnostics, prophylaxes, pretreatments, and treatments (DOD 2003). The purpose of the DOD Research Plan is not to outline a research program to investigate Gulf War illnesses.
This Research Plan describes DOD’s planned research, from Fiscal Year 2002 (FY2002) to FY2007, to fill gaps in the toxicologic database for CWAs at low levels of exposure. Research to support the Research Plan objectives is planned within the existing framework of the DOD Chemical and Biological Defense Program. No separate basic research program, organization, or management structure is proposed. The fundamental goal of the DOD research program is to establish science-based exposure standards for military personnel. Every study proposed under that program is designed to answer one mandatory question: How do data from this work contribute materially toward a quantitative refinement of the human health risk assessment for low-level CWA exposures? Therefore, the Research Plan is based on the following three major thrusts:
Characterize concentration-time relationships for low-level, longer-time CWA vapor exposures.