The same technology that helps deliver Idaho poatoes to family kitchens may be an effective tool against terrorism.
The O3Co, of Aberdeen, ID, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory are teaming to experiment with destroying anthrax using ozone.
The O3Co. has developed a patented process to deliver high concentrations of ozone-300 to 800 ppm-to freshly dug potatoes as they move along conveyors.
Ozone destroys the harmful bacteria such as Erwinia, responsible for soft rot, silver scurf and pink rot, allowing growers to store potatoes for months.
INEEL researchers believe this same process can be used to sterilize mail. They are testing their theory with harmless surrogates for anthrax spores. The ozone tests are just one part of the ongoing research the INEEL is conducting to combat terrorism in support of DOE's national security mission.
"We recognized the potential right after the first anthrax started showing up," Lynn Johnson, president of the company, said. "We were trying to contact the INEEL at the same time they were calling us. We've had such success with agricultural pests that we felt it would work on this."
Unlike chlorine dioxide, a hazardous chemical used to treat potatoes and disinfect anthrax-contaminated facilities, ozone leaves no residue for potatoes and takes just seconds to work..