HC Deb 10 November 2000 vol 356 cc415-6W
Mr. Baker

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reason pigs have been subjected to mustard gas exposure and a procedure involving a hand-held electric drill in an experiment conducted at Porton Down. [136609]

Dr. Moonie

Sulphur mustard (mustard gas) remains a significant chemical threat, both on the battlefield and from terrorists. The burns that result from contact with sulphur mustard heal extremely slowly and are prone to potentially life-threatening infection. Initial dermabrasion studies involving the use of hand-held abrasive material showed significantly enhanced rates of burn healing and reduced risk of infection. Later work which resulted in even more accurate removal of dead tissue and further improvements in the rate of healing were achieved by the use of a small (1 cm diameter) rotating disc of abrasive material powered by a hand-held, electric drill.

The technical details of the dermabrasion procedure are discussed in the open literature publication at the following reference:

N. Bennett, D. L. G. Lam, P. Rice and R. F. R. Brown. Dermabrasion—a novel surgical treatment for sulphur mustard burns. Burns. 26:34–40, 2000.

Staff at Porton Down are now confident that dermabrasion will help save lives and reduce the suffering in any future casualties.

Although much of Porton Down's work involves the development and use of models, for these particular studies there are no valid alternatives to the use of anaesthetised pigs if the normal healing process is to be measured accurately.

All animal research at Porton Down is conducted under licence authorised from the Home Office. In addition to the statutory controls, an independent body, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AWAC), reviews the arrangements for animal care and welfare at CBD, monitors the research programmes to ensure the highest possible standards and advises on best practice.