A unique analytical method for evaluating the effectiveness of topical protectants against penetration by chemical agents has been developed with the use of FT-IR and the horizontal attenuated total reflectance (ATR) accessory. A template was designed which allowed a uniform-thickness layer of topical protectant to be applied to the surface of the ATR crystal. A chemical challenge was applied to the template filled with topical protectant, and spectra were recorded with the use of standard GC software on a Nicolet 60SXB FT-IR spectrometer fitted with an MCT-A detector. Analysis of the recorded spectra identified how much time was required for the chemical challenge to break through the topical protectant barrier. The method was validated with the use of polysaturated fat, petroleum jelly, and hexafluoropropylene epoxide polymer as topical protectants. These materials were challenged with liquid ethyl disulfide. The detection threshold concentration for ethyl disulfide in the topical protectant was observed to be 0.5% (w/w). With a barrier thickness of 0.45 mm, the breakthrough times were observed to be 5.0 min and 22.0 min for polysaturated fat and petroleum jelly. The fluoropolymer showed no breakthrough after 60 min.
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