Toothpaste, and the tubes it comes in, have been identified as the lasted potential threat for visitors to the Sochi Games.
America’s Department of Homeland Security sent an alert recently to US airlines heading to Russia. The alert, also provided to foreign airlines, advised carriers to be vigilant for tubes of toothpaste which may hold ingredients possibly used for building a bomb on the plane.
A spokesman for DHS did not give other details regarding the information that triggered the alert. Another spokesman did say that DHS routinely provides pertinent information with American and foreign partners, especially those connected with high profile events like the upcoming Olympics.
The alert went on to say that American officials were unaware of a definite risk and the notice was a part of the department’s commitment to coordinating threats with allies. A source within federal law enforcement noted that the information provided in the alert is mainly meant for overseas airlines and does not reflect a direct threat at the US mainland.
A source, within the American intelligence community, said the alert was connected to the detention of two females in France. The women, of Chechen descent, are 23 and 30 years old. Security in Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Games, has been on a heightened level for months because of other threats which arose from Islamic militants with connections inside Chechnya.
Sochi, which is on the Black Sea, is only 300 miles from the center of Islamic militancy in the North Caucasus Region. Doku Umarov, known as Russia’s Osama bin Laden, told his adorers that efforts, by any means necessary, should be made to disrupt the Games. Russia has been hit by three separate suicide bombings in the past 90 days. Officials in Russia have attributed all three attacks to the extremists.
Toothpaste was initially said by DHS to be a threat to visitors traveling to the Sochi Games. That alert has been modified to say that the tube carrying toothpaste may be emptied and replaced with other ingredients. Although toothpaste itself is not normally seen as destructive, some of the ingredients have been used in armed hostilities.
A major ingredient in toothpaste is industrial waste. Fluorosilicic acid, used by 90 percent of municipal water supplies in America, is a concentrate captured by scrubbers at fertilizer plants. Fluoride toothpastes also contain sodium monofluorophosphate, a material chemically similar to nerve agents once used for chemical warfare.
During World War II, fluorine was used to produce uranium hexafluoride, a component used in the making of early atomic bombs. Another common ingredient in some toothpastes is potassium nitrate. A form of potassium nitrate is also used in making gunpowder and fireworks. A major producer of potassium nitrate is Sinochem NanJing Corporation in China. Founded in 1976, the company exports in excess of $900 million.
The warning about explosives made out of toothpaste has been modified to say that the tubes could be emptied of toothpaste and refilled with other ingredients. Despite that warning, Mitt Romney told reporters that he would attend the Sochi Games if his schedule allowed. US Secretary of State John Kerry also said he’s too busy, but if he had the time, he wouldn’t mind going and would take his family as well.
One of the greater risks in Sochi is the “Black Widow.” A Chechen woman, Ruzan Ibragimova, the widow of a deceased Islamist militant, is believed by Russian security to have gotten by the outer perimeter of safeguards around the Olympic Village.
Posters of Ibragimova have been put up throughout the city, but she still has not been located. Her supposed presence in Sochi has led the Russian government to issue a warning saying that a terrorist attack is very likely to occur.
While toothpaste itself may not be a threat to visitors to the Sochi Games, travelers are advised by the State Department be safety conscious and be aware of their surroundings.
By Jerry Nelson