ASTM International, one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world, announced the approval and availability of a new standard for collecting, packaging, and transporting visible powder samples suspected of being biological agents. ASTM E 2458, Standard Practices for Bulk Sample Collection and Swab Sample Collection of Visible Powders Suspected of Being Biological Agents from Nonporous Surfaces is the first standard to address the subject. E 2458 incorporates reference guidance to comply with appropriate federal regulations regarding biosafety and biosecurity. The standard is applicable to nonporous surfaces only.
Cooperative Interagency and Stakeholder Effort
The development of a sample collection standard was initiated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to address the problems associated with haphazard sample collection and screening. DHS assigned the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to coordinate and lead a task group whose charge was to develop a standard protocol for the collection of powders that are suspected biological agents. DHS funded AOAC International to organize and coordinate meetings of the task group and to organize validation studies. AOAC International is a scientific association committed to confidence in analytical results.
Formed in April 2005, the AOAC Sampling Standard Task Group consisted of experts from many different organizations such as: the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Center for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, health departments of U.S. states, various segments of the U.S. Army, and others. The resulting document was submitted to ASTM Committee E54 on Homeland Security as the basis of a full consensus standard. The stakeholders within E54 provided significant input and feedback, which resulted in hundreds of comments and three ASTM ballots of the draft standard. The final document reflects the true breadth of the homeland security effort within ASTM International. From start to finish, the standard was completed and adopted in approximately one year.
ASTM Committee E54 on Homeland Security
Currently there are over 500 stakeholders in Committee E 54 on Homeland Security, representing diverse groups including first responders, manufacturers, suppliers, trade and professional associations, and federal, state and local government. The committee was first organized in 2003.
E 2458 is the third standard issued by Committee E54 on Homeland Security, and the first standard of Subcommittee E54.01 on CBRNE Sensors and Detectors. "The development of this standard serves to highlight E54's ability to provide DHS with this much-needed methodology in a very short period of time. The cooperative effort among the various organizations and the stakeholder community is to be commended for providing the response community with this important tool." Kathleen M. Higgins, Director, Office of Law Enforcement Standards, NIST, and Chair, ASTM Committee E54 on Homeland Security Applications.
E 2458 is a two-step procedure that is performed after an initial risk assessment is conducted and a visible powder is deemed a credible biological threat. The first step of the procedure, or Method A, covers the bulk collection and packaging of the suspicious visible powders from solid nonporous surfaces. Bulk samples are collected and transported in a manner that permits public health and safety, and law enforcement agencies to obtain uncompromised samples for confirmatory analysis and forensic testing. The second step, or Method B, covers swab sampling of residual suspicious powders for presumptive on-site biological screening.
Sample Collection Procedure Proven to Work
A study was conducted in March 2006 to validate the reliability of the sampling procedure at the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground. The study demonstrated that the sampling procedure can be used by trained Emergency Responders in simulated emergency conditions to consistently recover samples. The study also proved that sufficient number of Bacillus anthracis spores can be detected by Emergency Responders to make a presumptive, on-site determination even after all bulk samples have been collected. The evaluation study was designed to determine the recovery efficacy on seven environmental surface types that included stainless steel, food-grade painted wood, rubber, tile, concrete, finished wood, and plastic.
The study involved six teams that included four National Guard Civil Support Teams (CST), the Navy’s Chemical Biological Incidence Response Force (CBIRF) as well as a hazmat team from the Florida Hazard Materials Response Unit. Team members were dressed in Class C personal protective equipment during the entire study so that the efficacy of the sample collection procedure could be tested under as close to real-life conditions as could be attained.
For further technical information, contact E54.01 Chairman Alim A. Fatah, Program Manager, Chemical Systems & Materials, Office of Law Enforcement Standards, NIST (phone: 301/975-2753; email@example.com). The next meeting of Committee E54 is Jan. 29-31, 2007, in Costa Mesa, CA. For Committee E54 membership or meeting details, contact Timothy Brooke, director, ASTM Technical Committee Operations, (phone: 610/832-9729; firstname.lastname@example.org).