Chemical roulette and the Navalny case

On pages 58-62 of the October 2020 issue of CBRNeWorld you will find an article from me on the existing analytical methods that allowed to identify a nerve agent from the so-called Novichok-group as the cause for Alexei Navalny’s poisoning. The article also touches upon the question why so many people have survived exposure to such high toxic nerve agents and that a further amendment of the schedules of chemicals in the Chemical Weapons Convention is vital.

DER SPIEGEL article on the recovery process of Mr Navalny

German news Magazin DER SPIEGEL published an article on the recovery process of Mr Navalny where I was able to contribute with some commentary.

While it might appear like a fast recovery Mr Navalny spent almost the same time in hospital as Yulia Skripal, the daughter of Sergey Skripal, who was poisoned in March 2018 together with her father. Key aspects for recovery (apart from a good general intensive care) are the elimination of potentially remaining poison from the body and the time the body requires to synthesize new cholinesterases to restore functionality to nerve impulse transmission.

Article on Novichok agents in the monthly magazine of the German Chemical Society

In June 2020 the addition of a number of new chemicals and family of chemicals to Schedule 1 of the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force. According to Member States these additions include agents from the so-called “Novichok” group of agents.

Written totally unrelated to the recent poisoning of Mr Navalny by a Novichok agent, but certainly well timed, my article “Ein unbekanntes Nervengift” covering these nerve agents appeared in the September issue of “Nachrichten aus der Chemie”, the monthly publication of the German Chemical Society. Due to the Navalny case and general interest the GDCh made the article open-access so please follow the above link (Article in German).

Interview with Riga based Russian online newspaper meduza.io on the Navalny poisoning

I gave an interview to the Riga based Russian online newspaper meduza.io on the Navalny case. I gave the interview just before Germany announced that they identified a nerve agent from the Novichok family as the chemical responsible for Mr Navalny’s poisoning.

Me an interview partner Alexander Ershov went into quite some detail on how such substances act a poisons, how analytical chemistry is able to identify them and how the outlook is for a total recovery.

I have to mention Medusa’s managing editor Kevin Rothrock who announced me on Twitter as “basically the real-life Nicholas Cage character from “The Rock” “. Well one important takeaway message from that movie is that VX nerve agent is not green (as depicted there).

Teaching at AKNZ

This week I was at the German Academy for crisis management, emergency planning and civil protection (AKNZ) where I had the pleasure to talk about specific risks of novel 4th generation nerve agents to first responders. The audience were CBRN instructors from the state firefighting academies with the idea to get this information through them to the first responders across the country. Local fire services – many of them voluntary – are likely to be the first on the scene of an incident. Protecting them and enabling them to respond is key to limit casualties and mitigate effects.