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Ventilation project aims to blast away bio-terrorist threat

Academics at Canada's University of Saskatchewan are working to create a ventilation system to protect buildings from chemical warfare and bio-terrorist attack.
The lab's researchers are working on an Early Warning and Response system (eWAR) that can both filter harmful agents out of the air and activate warnings when airborne contaminants reach a critical density.

The eWar project focuses on detecting, identifying, quantifying, and destroying chemical toxins and biological agents. In its current design, eWAR quickly notifies building managers about potential threats.

The university's newly-opened lab has a computer model HVAC system that runs different simulations of potential building contamination scenarios. Researchers are using the HVAC model to investigate how humidity, air pressure, wind, and temperature influence the spread of noxious fumes and biochemical agents.

Engineering dean and lead researcher Janusz Kozinski said 'This system promises to give citizens and emergency workers in these scenarios the extra seconds they need to respond before it's too late.'

eWAR could also warn of the threat of outbreaks by detecting diseases, such as chickenpox and tuberculosis, before they spread through a hospital's air vents.

Earlier this year, Janusz Kozinski was awarded $446,665 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to develop eWAR systems, that can help prevent potential chemi- and bio-terrorist attacks on public buildings such as hospitals and schools.

'We are expanding the scope of eWAR applications to cover a wider base of situations that may affect civilian populations, such as the spread of influenza, anthrax, or nerve agent sarin,' said Andre Dascal, a McGill University associate professor of medicine, microbiology, and immunology collaborating on the project.

The eWAR project is a research consortium formed by the U of S, McGill University, Concordia University, the Biotechnology Research Institute, the Directorate of Public Health of Montreal, UV-Sterisource, and ALERT B & C.

Researchers say an integrated eWAR system could make detecting chemicals and bio-agents part of normal security procedures.

'Shopping malls, government facilities, and commercial buildings are all waiting for a system like eWAR to give first responders enough time to evacuate people from public places before they are exposed to dangerous chemicals and biohazards,' said Suzanne L. Lebel, chairman of ALERT B & C.
8 September 2008

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