In 1995 the R&D chemist at Securesearch, Inc. developed a series of trace marker pens containing live explosives in a quick-evaporating solvent. These were tested for long-term stability in a federal government testing laboratory –and also to prove the levels were low enough not to be able to be detonated by a detonator.

In 1997, after two years of meetings among 19 different government agencies, they were approved by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, (ATF — now ATFE) and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for sale and transport within the USA. They were approved one year earlier for sale in Canada. The marker pens were regulated in the USA until 2006, when the requirement was lifted and the licensing of purchasers was no longer mandatory.

These pens were developed primarily for training and testing detector canines on very small (micro trace quantities) of explosives, useful as a refresher for the dogs.

Secondarily, they could be used to test explosive detection instrumentation, although this is not a recommended use for a number of reasons outlined in our technical literature.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uses these marker pens at many airports and training centers throughout the United States.

The markers have an average shelf life of about 3 years if kept in low temperature storage such as a refrigerator.

More than 40 types are available, containing explosives, oxidizers, chemical taggants for plastic explosives, pseudo drugs (breakdown products and precursor chemicals). A control marker pen is also available containing only solvent.

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