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TATP, Peroxide-Based Explosive Easily Manufactured Using Chemicals in Beauty Products Across the Country, is Highly Unstable and Does Not Require Detonators to Cause Explosion

Chemical Was Used By Shoe Bomber, London Bombings of 2005, and in Zazi Bombing Plot in NYC Earlier This Month

Schumer: Given The String of Terrorist Plots Surrounding TATP, It's Time To Protect The Public From This Danger

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer warned Attorney General Eric Holder, DHS Secretary Napolitano, and ATF Director Melson of his concerns regarding triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and urged them to take swift action to protect the public.  Given the overthecounter accessibility of chemicals required for its manufacture, the difficulty conventional detection systems face in its detection, and its destructive power, TATP quickly gained a reputation as the post9/11 terrorist's explosive of choice.  It was used by the "shoe bomber" Richard Reid in 2001, in the horrific London bombings of 2005, and in the alleged bombing plot case of Najibullah Zazi earlier this month.  Schumer is urging the Justice Department in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security to create a program to draw attention to the dangers of precursor chemicals involved in the manufacture of TATP and other explosive compounds.


"Given the string of terrorist plots involving these dangerous chemicals, the time to protect the public from this danger is now," Schumer said. "The alleged bombing plot of Najibullah Zazi reminds us of the danger surrounding TATP, homemade explosives and precursor chemicals. The great investigative work of the FBI and the NYPD prevented a possible tragedy in this case, but let not this success go without careful examination of what remains to be done to ensure public safety in the next."


TATP and similar peroxidebased explosives are sensitive to heat, friction and shock, rendering them highly unstable. They do not require detonators to trigger their explosions. Given their volatile nature, these compounds have never gained a legitimate commercial or military value.  However, current law allows for the importation, manufacture, and dealing of these peroxide based explosive compounds with a license.   


Beyond their destructive and volatile nature, peroxide based explosives are relatively easy to produce.  Recent news stories of the bomb plot case of Najibullah Zazi highlight how he set to work on manufacturing TATP using chemicals obtained with relative ease at beauty supply stores.  Indeed, one need only search online for any number of explosive recipes, swing by a beauty or home supply store for the proper ingredients, and watch any of a number of online videos providing stepbystep instructions on how to construct a deadly explosive. 


As the Internet becomes saturated with such material, Schumer says the government should also seek to inform private sector distributors, wholesalers, and retailers of potential precursor chemicals whose products can be transformed into explosives.  A report published over a decade ago by the National Academies entitled "Containing the Threat from Illegal Bombings," recommended the creation of a "Be Aware for America" program to increase awareness of the dangers of precursor chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide, sodium nitrate, potassium nitrate, nitromethane, concentrated nitric acid, sodium chlorate, potassium chlorate, potassium perchlorate, and others.


Given the string of terrorist plots involving TATP, Schumer is urging that the United States start such a program.  At a minimum, Schumer believes the following actions should be immediately taken:


  • DOJ/DHS should develop and disseminate materials and programs providing guidance to facilities dealing with precursor chemicals on suspicious purchases or suspicious attempted purchases.


  • Such materials and programs should provide information on the appropriate course of action to be taken by facilities with respect to suspicious purchases, including exercising the right of the owner to decline the sale of precursor chemicals and notifying appropriate law enforcement.


  • Finally, these materials and programs should encourage the prompt reporting of any theft of such precursor chemicals.