Protecting ports from toxic chemicals

Wednesday, 13 July, 2005

Syft Technologies, producer of advanced SIFT-MS analytical solutions for large-scale identification and analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), has signed a significant export order with Australian Customs Services (Customs) to supply five Voice100 instruments to ports in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth. The order is worth in excess of NZ$2m and is to be delivered by June 2005.

Customs will use the technology to analyse and measure fumigant levels within sea containers arriving into Australia - a process necessary to protect port workers from unsafe levels of toxic chemicals and eliminate threat to Australia's agricultural-based economies.

Without protection, exposure to chemicals in the fumigants can be lethal. Chemicals such as ethylene dibromide, phosphine, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, methyl bromide, ethylene oxide, sulfuryl fluoride and chloropicrin (trichloronitromethane).

The instrument uses a technique involving SIFT-MS (selected ion flow mass spectrometry) that can instantly and safely detect and analyse the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from these chemicals and more.

Geoff Peck, chief operating officer of Syft Technologies, explained, "Once the air sample is captured in a tedlar bag it is attached to an inlet on the Voice100. At the push of a button, operators can analyse and determine which fumigant or combination of fumigants were used in the container.

"Each chemical has its own target safety level and the user-friendly screen interface of the Voice100 can immediately show the operator the concentration of fumigant and whether the container is safe to enter or not. All this happens in seconds with measurements down to low parts per billion (ppb)."

Mr Kim Woo, manager Technologies, Australian Customs Service, said, "Customs identified a need to improve facilities to enable staff to test cargo containers for fumigants and other harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in a safe, fast and cost-effective manner.

"A number of alternate VOC detection tech-nologies have been evaluated, and the Voice100 selected ion flow tube mass spectrometer from Syft Technologies has met Customs requirements for fumigant and associated VOC detection. We are working closely with Syft Technologies to develop the application further to meet other operational needs."

The product also offers Customs the potential to extend the service to other border security areas in the future.

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