“Nerve gas” attack turns out to be … nail polish remover

posted at 2:21 pm on August 12, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen nail-polish remover loom this large in the news cycle before.  Yesterday, New York news media rushed to report a possible nerve-gas attack at JFK airport in the Big Apple after workers were sickened by a smell from a suspicious packageCNN later reported it as “phosphoric acid.” The New York Post suggested that it was VX, a deadly chemical weapon, as did the New York Daily News … at least initially.

Instead, it turns out to have been that chemical weapon dreaded by husbands everywhere — nail polish remover:

A chemical that sickened two workers Sunday at a Kennedy Airport postal facility turned out to be nail-polish remover, according to a source close to the investigation.

It was not known how the two customs workers were exposed to the product.

No other workers were treated.

The FBI got called in, as they should be whenever a potential threat arises.  Instead of waiting to see what the problem might be, though, the media rushed to speculate yesterday and ended up with significant egg on their faces.  That’s not to say that the incident may be entirely innocent:

The package was part of a shipment from China, the officials said. …

Port Authority officials said the opened package was sealed in a 55-gallon drum.

Why would nail-polish remover be sealed (poorly, it seems) in a 55-gallon drum for shipping purposes? That does seem a little odd, if not suspicious.  Coincidentally, this story from Fox over the weekend might contain a hint:

CVS pharmacy customers are being asked for identification when they buy nail polish remover, WPRI 12 News reports.

The policy, which has been rolled out across southern New England in the past few weeks, means customers must show ID and will be limited on the number of bottles of remover they can purchase, according to the station.

The drugstore chain says the rule is an attempt to curb the making of illegal methamphetamine, and issued this statement, according to the station:

“Because acetone is an ingredient used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, we recently implemented a policy that a valid ID must be presented to purchase acetone-containing products such as nail polish remover.  Our policy also limits the sale of these products in conjunction with other methamphetamine precursors and is based on various regulations requiring retailers to record sales of acetone.”

It’s possible that the shipment was intended for something other than removing nail polish from fingernails — or it just might be coincidence entirely.  The latter story is worth noting, though, as this kind of policy may not be restricted to New England for long if meth labs are trying to stock up on nail-polish remover as an acetone source for their production. (Note too that this is CVS policy, not state or federal law — yet.)  Pharmacies already ration cold medication to prevent the production of meth, and now some people will have to show ID to remove nail polish … but not in order to vote.


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I could always tell when folks were cooking meth from the acetone smell…

OmahaConservative on August 12, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Thanks for the link, Ed!

ConservativeLA on August 12, 2013 at 2:24 PM

I love the smell of acetone, lots of women’s nail polish uses toluene as the solvent also.

Bmore on August 12, 2013 at 2:28 PM

I am not a Chemical Engineer nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but how the heck do you hide that hideous smell when you use nail polish remover to cook Meth? It must travel miles and there is no masking it.

Johnnyreb on August 12, 2013 at 2:28 PM

The New York Post suggested that it was VX, a deadly chemical weapon, as did the New York Daily News … at least initially.

Idiots. If I recall, nerve agents are odorless. Besides, the stuff is so deadly that, if it had an odor and in concentration where someone could smell it, they’d be in convulsions in five seconds or less and dead in less than thirty seconds.

Don’t reporters know how to do research? Or even have a working past knowledge of what they might be writing about?

CVS is also run by idiots. Pure acetone can be bought by the gallon at hardware stores and similar outlets. Breathing the fumes can make someone sick, like with any solvent.

This country needs a better class of hysteric.

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Meanwhile…

We’re All Safer!!! ///

Resist We Much on August 12, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Johnnyreb on August 12, 2013 at 2:28 PM

I used to walk through Uptown neighborhoods in San Diego mid-eighties and you could smell it everywhere…

OmahaConservative on August 12, 2013 at 2:31 PM

I love the smell of acetone, lots of women’s nail polish uses toluene as the solvent also.

Bmore on August 12, 2013 at 2:28 PM

It’s the smell of those old home-perm kits that makes me nauseous.

slickwillie2001 on August 12, 2013 at 2:31 PM

It’s the smell of those old home-perm kits that makes me nauseous.

slickwillie2001 on August 12, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Oh, man, that was the worst. When my mom aunt and grandma would do that we kids would high tail it out of the house…

OmahaConservative on August 12, 2013 at 2:34 PM

“Because acetone is an ingredient used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, we recently implemented a policy that a valid ID must be presented to purchase acetone-containing products such as nail polish remover. Our policy also limits the sale of these products in conjunction with other methamphetamine precursors and is based on various regulations requiring retailers to record sales of acetone.”

Let me get this straight. They’re suspicious that folks are buying nail polish remover to distill out the acetone?

You know what else contains acetone???? Cans of acetone you are able to pick up at the hardware store- no distilling required! And I’m pretty sure Home Depot isn’t going to demand an ID to buy it.

Happy Nomad on August 12, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Yay! More government is better!

John the Libertarian on August 12, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Idiots. If I recall, nerve agents are odorless.

Odorless, colorless and Darn near invisible.

Johnnyreb on August 12, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Oh great! I already have to spend a $40 co-pay when my allergies act up so that I can get AllergyMed-D, then go dragging to the pharmacy, then wait in line and then… blah, blah, blah to supposedly fight meth production. Now maybe the same for finger nail polish remover?

If meth production is so destructive that we would force millions upon millions of people into extra costs extraordinary inconvenience just to breath normally in the spring and fall, then it is serious enough to just execute the producers. Completely unacceptable that many millions would be heinously inconvenienced because of a few thousand criminals (TSA, Patriot Act and overreaction to “threats” not withstanding as those are wrong too). You get caught making meth, we just shoot you where you stand. Couple bucks in ammo and the problem is permanently solved one druggie at a time. Oh, that’s radical and its not THAT serious of a problem? Great, then let me just buy my damned allergy medicine and the wife’s finger nail polish remover without inconvenience or putting me in some database.

deepdiver on August 12, 2013 at 2:39 PM

“…Don’t reporters know how to do research? Or even have a working past knowledge of what they might be writing about?…”

You’re talking about J-School Grads, the question is self-explanatory.

Another Drew on August 12, 2013 at 2:40 PM

slickwillie2001 on August 12, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Not sure about the home made ones, but the other made ones do have a smell. Lol!

Bmore on August 12, 2013 at 2:40 PM

Can we just skip straight to them issuing us all our helmets and kneepads? Do the greenies have any idea how much petroleum it’s going to take to make all the foam that will be required for corners and hard edges?

GWB on August 12, 2013 at 2:40 PM

And I’m pretty sure Home Depot isn’t going to demand an ID to buy it.

Happy Nomad on August 12, 2013 at 2:34 PM

They require ID where I live. Spray paints etc…

Bmore on August 12, 2013 at 2:41 PM

I clean my headlights with acetone. Good stuff.

faraway on August 12, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Yay! More government is better!

John the Libertarian on August 12, 2013 at 2:35 PM

No government involved in that ID requirement. CVS imposed it.

GWB on August 12, 2013 at 2:43 PM

deepdiver on August 12, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Imagine the hold up for you now at CVS if you need to buy both your allergy medication and nail polish remover at the same time. They might also call the cops on you!

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 2:44 PM

“…Don’t reporters know how to do research? Or even have a working past knowledge of what they might be writing about?…”

You’re talking about J-School Grads, the question is self-explanatory.

Another Drew on August 12, 2013 at 2:40 PM

Good point. But I was thinking more about Keith Olbermann being a ‘reporter’ who went to an agricultural school instead.

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 2:46 PM

I am not a Chemical Engineer nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but how the heck do you hide that hideous smell when you use nail polish remover to cook Meth? It must travel miles and there is no masking it.

Johnnyreb on August 12, 2013 at 2:28 PM

You’ve obviously never driven through Elizabeth, NJ…

JetBoy on August 12, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Bmore ,
Your work is terrific .
May I suggest Diogenes ….. Just looking for an honest man .
( walking in the daylight with a lantern )
Oh , but maybe you found them all already !

Lucano on August 12, 2013 at 2:49 PM

I make models. I use cyanoacrylate glue (super glue) for some purposes. (Joining metal to plastic, for example.) Acetone is a solvent for cyano, so I keep a bottle of nail polish remover around in case of emergency. Like the time I spilled cyano on my glasses. (I was not wearing them when it happened.) Poured the stuff over the lenses. (It worked.)

Now I will be in the sights of the DEA the next time I get some nail polish remover, no doubt.

No Truce With Kings on August 12, 2013 at 2:50 PM

“…Don’t reporters know how to do research? Or even have a working past knowledge of what they might be writing about?…”

You’re talking about J-School Grads, the question is self-explanatory.

Another Drew on August 12, 2013 at 2:40 PM

I blame Windows 8. Its just too damn hard to search anymore.

meci on August 12, 2013 at 2:51 PM

They require ID where I live. Spray paints etc…

Bmore on August 12, 2013 at 2:41 PM

That’s probably a local law to prevent tagging or paint sniffing or something. They had one of those where I was living in LA.

The real questions are why anybody would buy nail polish to produce meth in the first place. And if there are “regulations” that require the actions being taken by CVS, just what regulations are involved and not a nationwide policy.

It would be really funny if it turned out that all CVS stores in Southern New England are being forced to play nail nanny because only one state or locality has a new law. Seriously, they need to cite exactly what they mean by various regulations requiring retailers to record sales of acetone.

Happy Nomad on August 12, 2013 at 2:54 PM

Imagine the hold up for you now at CVS if you need to buy both your allergy medication and nail polish remover at the same time. They might also call the cops on you!

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 2:44 PM

Your purchase of nail polish remover is recorded but NOT if you go to the counter with Skittles, Arizona Watermelon drink, and cough syrup.

Happy Nomad on August 12, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Your purchase of nail polish remover is recorded but NOT if you go to the counter with Skittles, Arizona Watermelon drink, and cough syrup.

Happy Nomad on August 12, 2013 at 2:59 PM

We’ve ‘progressed’ quite far, haven’t we? /

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Maybe the media can use acetone to remove the egg off of their faces.

Pazman on August 12, 2013 at 3:02 PM

We’ve ‘progressed’ quite far, haven’t we? /

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 3:01 PM

No seriously. You’re to be carded for nail polish remover because it contains a component of meth production. As I pointed out before in some places you have to show ID to buy paint because of paint sniffers.

But you can buy Skittles and Watermelon drink at will even though they too are components of a certain type of drug and drug culture? Why aren’t we figuring out whatever is needed to make whatever is on the agenda to ban and make it as hard as possible to live an average American life. Why not cite statistics about abuse of alcohol or tobacco products and limit sales to one bottle of beer or one cigarette at a time? This is nanny statism run amok- and CVS isn’t even able to state the various regulations that are “making” them do this!

Happy Nomad on August 12, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Yes, we are a nation of gutless cowards. Our founding fathers would hate us if they were alive today.

Fazman on August 12, 2013 at 3:14 PM

“Nerve gas” attack turns out to be … nail polish remover

If carbon dioxide is “pollution” then nail polish remover certainly qualifies as “nerve gas”. Heck, the Times Square bombers contraption qualified as a WMD … which is amazing considering that “there weren’t any WMDs in Iraq’s entire arsenal”, according to the same stooges who filed and backed this charge.

English has been totally destroyed, thanks to the left and morons like Benedict “It’s not a tax when they say it’s a tax, until it is a tax when they say it isn’t a tax … but it’s Constitutional in any event because I want it to be and the feral government can levy any tax/non-tax/charge for inaction for any reason it wants” Roberts.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on August 12, 2013 at 3:18 PM

Happy Nomad on August 12, 2013 at 3:08 PM

The country has gone insane over the course of my life. When I was a kid, I could go to my local hobby shop alone to buy a tube of model cement (toluene) and all the spray and bottled paint I wanted. Now, as an adult, I have to show ID in New England to buy a bottle of nail polish remover if my girlfriend asks me to pick it up on the way home?

What’s next — making it a charge of child abuse to let your kid drink from the garden hose?

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 3:27 PM

How about having journalists produce an ID to prove they have common sense!

Art on August 12, 2013 at 3:35 PM

How about having journalists produce an ID to prove they have common sense!

Art on August 12, 2013 at 3:35 PM

How about requiring voters to have ID to prove they can legally vote?

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 3:37 PM

What’s next — making it a charge of child abuse to let your kid drink from the garden hose?

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 3:27 PM

LOL … letting your kid drink from the faucet is child abuse, now. The garden hose is a friggin crime against humanity these days.

I don’t know when tap water turned into poison – it must be the carbon dioxide pollution making it all warm and stuff :)

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on August 12, 2013 at 3:39 PM

ID for Polish but not to vote
Got it

D’oh

cmsinaz on August 12, 2013 at 3:47 PM

I don’t know when tap water turned into poison – it must be the carbon dioxide pollution making it all warm and stuff :)

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on August 12, 2013 at 3:39 PM

Ugh. It’s not the water itself, it’s all the stuff – weed killer, fertilizer, pesticide – you put on the end of your hose now (and on the grass where that hose rests). I wouldn’t ever stop a kid from drinking out of his own family’s hose, though – just mine.

GWB on August 12, 2013 at 3:52 PM

What’s next — making it a charge of child abuse to let your kid drink from the garden hose?

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 3:27 PM

Let’s not give them any ideas.

chemman on August 12, 2013 at 3:55 PM

So, I’m guessing your local nail salons are being inspected by the DEA?

Since there are lots of ethnic gags about who runs nail salons – I’m going to play the “racist” card here.

2nd Ammendment Mother on August 12, 2013 at 3:55 PM

How about having journalists produce an ID to prove they have common sense!

Art on August 12, 2013 at 3:35 PM

They would need to have common sense for that to work and I haven’t seen any facts entered into the record to prove the premise.

chemman on August 12, 2013 at 3:57 PM

It’s possible that the shipment was intended for something other than removing nail polish from fingernails — or it just might be coincidence entirely. The latter story is worth noting, though, as this kind of policy may not be restricted to New England for long if meth labs are trying to stock up on nail-polish remover as an acetone source for their production. (Note too that this is CVS policy, not state or federal law — yet.) Pharmacies already ration cold medication to prevent the production of meth, and now some people will have to show ID to remove nail polish … but not in order to vote.

Note to New England et al: my husband is a manufacturer of electronics for musical instruments, and acetone is used in the production of some of those products. Methamphetamine-making and nail polish removal are not the only uses for acetone.

jix on August 12, 2013 at 3:59 PM

WOW…War On Women…

Sinatra_98 on August 12, 2013 at 4:06 PM

So now we have a War On Acetone in the so-called “land of the free”? /rolls eye

FloatingRock on August 12, 2013 at 4:13 PM

Does this drug store chain realize that people can go to the hardware store and buy acetone by the gallon without any ID? If people buy acetone in a drugstore it’s probably because they only need a small amount…. like for example, to remove nail polish!

FloatingRock on August 12, 2013 at 4:17 PM

My local NAPA stocks 5 gallon tins, and can order 55 gallon drums (at just over and just under $10/gal retail respectively).

Who would pay dollars per ounce for packaged nail polish remover? and have to separate out the acetone?

That is as stupid as people supposedly separating the ephedrine from cough remedies when Canadian sales of #35 pails of pure ephedrine are legal there, and who doubts smuggling that into the US is easier and cheaper than paying dollars per gram and having to separate out the needed ingredients from OTC cough remedies.

jhnone on August 12, 2013 at 4:20 PM

You know what else contains acetone???? Cans of acetone

lol!

tlynch001 on August 12, 2013 at 4:41 PM

Lucano on August 12, 2013 at 2:49 PM

Thanks Lucano, Good idea. The cynic. I’ll see if I can’t do something with that. ; ) P.S. Sorry for the slow reply. Storms here today.

Bmore on August 12, 2013 at 4:45 PM

Guess I’d better get over to the hardware store and pick up a couple of gallons of acetone while I can still buy it. It is a marvelous solvent, but unhealthy if you don’t have good ventilation.

oldleprechaun on August 12, 2013 at 5:05 PM

What’s next — making it a charge of child abuse to let your kid drink from the garden hose?

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 3:27 PM

You fiend!!

You wouldn’t dare!

Have you no conscience? No soul?

Solaratov on August 12, 2013 at 5:09 PM

Pharmacies already ration cold medication to prevent the production of meth, and now some people will have to show ID to remove nail polish … but not in order to vote.

Not just rationed and requiring an ID, your info is kept in a database that’s reported to the Feds. And picking up another package if you happen to be at the store? Don’t bother unless you’ve completely run out, you will be denied. Oh, and if you have a child under 18 who also needs the medication, you need to find another adult to buy it for your child. You could buy one package at one store and the other at a different store, but then you’d be chancing that no-knock drug raid in the middle of the night. And to add insult to injury, God help you if you run out outside of pharmacy hours.

NONE of this prevents meth in this country. Criminals just get the pure stuff from Mexico through the porous border while law-abiding citizens are treated like criminals.

Common Sense on August 12, 2013 at 5:45 PM

I love the smell of acetone, lots of women’s nail polish uses toluene as the solvent also.

Bmore on August 12, 2013 at 2:28 PM

I’m kinda partial to the ethereal undertones of banana in Lacquer thinner.

Hill60 on August 12, 2013 at 6:27 PM

Freshly mimeographed test papers…just sayin’…

Knott Buyinit on August 12, 2013 at 6:55 PM

Freshly mimeographed test papers…just sayin’…

Knott Buyinit on August 12, 2013 at 6:55 PM

You’re dating ourselves.

slickwillie2001 on August 12, 2013 at 9:37 PM

Coming from China it may have been technical grade with all sorts of solutes in it.

Does this drug store chain realize that people can go to the hardware store and buy acetone by the gallon without any ID? If people buy acetone in a drugstore it’s probably because they only need a small amount…. like for example, to remove nail polish!

FloatingRock on August 12, 2013 at 4:17 PM

Can’t fix stupid.

For my money the best organic solvent around is benzene.

Bubba Redneck on August 13, 2013 at 1:04 AM

What’s next — making it a charge of child abuse to let your kid drink from the garden hose?

Liam on August 12, 2013 at 3:27 PM

That would make sense if you’ve got a non-potable water line for outdoor watering. Of course I’ve never lived anywhere that had such a thing, but I’m pretty sure my grandparents in a rural area had that, and I know my aunt does. That water can have nastiness in the water.

However if that’s not the case, let it run a few seconds (to clear the stagnant water out of the hose) and you’re fine.

The lead/plastic/etc in the liner will apparently put some contaminants into water that sits in it for days as well. And they now sell “drinking water hoses” that don’t have the same composition for this reason. Which would make no difference for water that’s been in the hose for a second or so at best.

Anyone for hot stagnant water from the hose? No? Then it’s probably not worth worrying about. But if I’d thought about selling “drinking water hoses” first and ran the studies to show how stagnant hot water sitting in a hose gets bad I could have made a fortune.

gekkobear on August 13, 2013 at 1:45 PM