NYC's Simulated Toxic Gas Attack Begins Today

The NYPD flooded the New York subway system with an odourless, invisible gas today. The simulated terror attack is part of a three-day test that will generate a map of how air flows through the subways, helping emergency responders if a real airborne toxic event ever occurs.

The NYPD is working with Brookhaven National Laboratory, a Long Island-based lab, which will handle the actual dispersion and tracking of the gas. Funded by a $US3.4 million Department of Homeland Security-funded grant, the project will release small amounts of Perfluorocarbon tracers -- an odourless, invisible and non-toxic gas -- throughout roughly 200 subway stations.

We interviewed Brookhaven's Paul Kalb, the principal investigator of the study, about the tests back in April. Here's what he had to say:

The study will show us the worst case scenario. It'll be a close representation of how particles from a bioweapon or dirty bomb could move through the air. [...] Anything on the surface can get sucked down into the subway through air grates. And likewise, anything on the subway eventually makes its way to the street.

The movement of the PFTs will be tracked thanks to the small, featureless meters installed in select stations this morning. From there, scientists will be able to generate a "plume model" of how gas moves through the complex subway system -- a model that could inform how emergency responders act during a real attack.

Top picture: Stuart Monk/Shutterstock

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