Don’t panic. But there’s a non-trivial chance terrorists will launch a chemical-weapons attack on U.S. soil. So the far-out researchers at Darpa are thinking about an unorthodox detection method: breathing in your city’s chemical bouquet. You’ve heard of racial and ethnic profiling? Here’s chemical profiling. Just imagine the privacy concerns.
In theory, chemical attacks can be detected before they happen. Even trace amounts of chemicals give off specific signatures that tools like sorbent tube samplers can register. But in order to figure out if dangerous chemicals are stockpiled somewhere or are floating through the air, the government’s going to have to know the baseline level for those chemicals wafting near your Dumpster.