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Fla. company creates color-changing wipes to detect fentanyl, explosives, other substances

The Trace Eye-D products resemble individually packaged moist wipes


image/Smiths Detection

James A. Jones Jr.
The Bradenton Herald

BRADENTON, Fla. — A Bradenton company has developed a system of disposable wipes that can instantly detect the presence of dangerous substances such as explosives or narcotics.

Chris Baden, 63, chief executive officer of Trace Eye-D, recently rolled out the new patented products that resemble individually packaged moist wipes.

One set of wipes is designed to detect narcotics: one packet is for methamphetamines, another for fentanyl and a third for cocaine.

The chemical-based wipes confirm the presence of the narcotic when they change color. It’s as simple and fast as ripping open a packet and swabbing the surface where a narcotic is suspected. If the color changes, it’s the suspected narcotic.

Another set of wipes has been developed to detect military-grade or terrorist-grade explosives.

Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, have helped produce a public health crisis. In 2021, they accounted for 66% of the more than 100,000 overdose deaths in the U.S.

The presence of fentanyl can also be a hazard to the first responders — paramedics, firefighters or law enforcement officers — who arrive on a scene to assist someone who has overdosed.

A Trace Eye-D wipe can quickly determine the presence of a narcotic and help ensure the safety of the first responders, Baden said.

Baden introduced the wipes during a recent Florida Sheriffs Association Conference in Orlando.

“Two major sheriff’s offices are now trying our wipes,” Baden said this week from his production facility in Sarasota County.

It’s been a long, difficult road to get to this point, with the development of a patented product and the investment needed to market it, Baden said.

The starting point

Chris Baden started the joint venture that is Trace Eye-D in 2012 with his father, Ray Baden, a Bradenton businessman and philanthropist.

Initially, the focus was on counter-terrorism and developing an electronic scanner system to detect explosive material traces.

Trace Eye-D‘s founding mission was to develop counter-terrorism products that allow security personnel to quickly and easily identify homemade explosives of the type used by the shoe-bomber and in other high profile terror attacks.

But after encountering problems with the technology in 2015, Ray Baden said that maybe it was time for a pivot, using one of his favorite sayings: “There’s a bottom to everybody’s barrel.”

At that point, Trace Eye-D began focusing on developing a detection wipe system, led by Barry Gorski, director of research and development.

The terrorist bombings of 2017 in Paris and Belgium lent fresh urgency to the task, Chris Baden said.

“That accelerated the process,” he said. “We now have the products, the patents and the people It’s really gratifying to see where we are at with the struggles that we have seen.”

The company now has three U.S. patents with protections extending to 32 foreign countries.

Chris Baden’s one regret is that his father did not live to see the Trace Eye-D products begin coming on the market. Ray Baden had been in poor health for several years and died in March 2021 at age 92.

“It’s sad that he wasn’t here to see the company we started together reach its goals, but I think somehow he knows we’re making it happen,” Chris Baden said.

Looking toward 2023

Helping the company reach its goal of simple and user-friendly solutions for military and law enforcement were students from State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.

“They would send us their best and brightest kids,” Gorski said, adding the students helped with double blind tests.

Some of those students went on to earn four-year degrees and returned to Trace Eye-D. The younger members of the team include Kei Bland, Nick Butler and Steven Gorski.

Trace Eye-D achieved its goal of developing an easy-to-use product with nothing to mix or vials to break like with older tests.

Just swab the area “and it’s going to show you right away,” Barry Gorski said of the suspected presence of a dangerous substance.

Baden believes there is a clear need and demand for his products.

“There are news stories almost daily about the scourge of fentanyl in our communities and we are excited and proud to bring our game-changing solution to the marketplace and to the people who need it,” Baden said.

“We’re looking forward to 2023 when we expect to make our products available outside of law enforcement use,” Baden said. “The schools, places of work and the home environment are all settings we see our wipes making a positive impact at reducing harm and use of drugs and narcotics.”

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