Edgewood lab part of Nobel Peace Prize winner's weapons monitoring network

When the Nobel Prize committee announced on Oct. 11 that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had won the 2013 Peace Prize, members of a Harford County laboratory rejoiced.

Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Forensic Analytical Laboratory is one of only two labs in the United States that provide forensic analysis for OPCW, monitoring the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Dr. Stan Ostazeski, forensic analytical center chief, said in the past several months the OPCW has transitioned from a little known organization to a "household name."

"Clearly, being a successful participant in this laboratory network is like having a gold medal in the Olympics of analytical chemistry," Ostazeski said.

Including Syria, which joined earlier this month, 190 nations have signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. These member nations have nominated 21 OPCW designated laboratories across the globe who test and analyze samples.

In 1996, ECBC was the first American laboratory to become part of the OPCW laboratory network and given its status by the organization's director general, Ahmet Üzümcü. The lab is on the Edgewood Area of the Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"The Department of Defense turned to [ECBC] to provide the required capabilities based upon the knowledge and experience already resident here as part of our chemical and biological defense mission," Ostazeski said.

In a recent interview with the Nobel Prize committee, Üzümcü said since its inception OPCW has been able to eliminate 80 percent of the chemical weapons stockpile around the world. He said being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize will help to increase the recognition of global peace and security.

Since 1996, OPCW has conducted two international proficiency tests per year. To maintain its designated status, labs are required to successfully conduct one proficiency test and maintain a running score of at least two As and one B on their three most recent tests.

"The goal of preparing the test is to replicate real world samples, however the labs preparing the samples know what compounds might hide or mimic reportable compounds, so the test samples are likely to be more difficult than real world samples," Ostazeski said in a statement.

During the test, labs have 15 calendar days from first receiving their six samples to send their analysis and report their findings. Labs analyze samples for chemical warfare agents, byproducts, precursors and other compounds of interest.

"During the 15 days of testing, we turn our conference room into a war room," Ostazeski said in a statement. "We eat pizza and sweets, lock the gates and go to work. All other work stops, unless something of national importance happens."

Earlier this year ECBC earned a top grade in the 33rd proficiency test administered by OPCW, he said.

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