225 Years of Building Better Lives
header image
Share Your Story
Advances in Health and Medicine

Pitt Cleans Up Biological Attack


Following the 2001 anthrax attack at the Hart Senate Office Building, hazard teams needed to sterilize the offices. To do so effectively, they asked Pitt School of Pharmacy Professor Emeritus Joseph Knapp for advice.

His answer might surprise most people: poisonous gas.

It makes sense when you think about it. Anthrax is caused by bacteria that poisonous gas can kill. So to clean up after an anthrax attack—which is more biological than chemical—one must first kill the anthrax bacteria and then clean up the gas.

At Pitt’s School of Pharmacy, Knapp developed a sterilization process that demonstrated for the first time that chlorine dioxide in its gaseous phase could effectively sterilize a contaminated environment.

Johnson & Johnson acquired the process and developed it into a commercially viable product called ISODOX Sterilization System for Clean Room and Isolator Sterilization. The product was used during the 2001 anthrax attacks as well as for other sterilization purposes.