Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 349–357 | Cite as

The effectiveness of decontamination procedures used in forensic hair analysis

  • Dylan Mantinieks
  • Dimitri GerostamoulosEmail author
  • Paul Wright
  • Olaf Drummer


Hair is a mainstream specimen used in forensic toxicology to determine drug use and exposure. However, the interpretation of an analytical hair result can be complicated by the presence of external drug contamination. Decontamination procedures are included in hair analysis methods to remove external contamination, but the capacity of these washes to completely remove contamination for all drugs is controversial. It is evident that there is no consensus on the most effective decontamination procedure, nor can decontamination procedures consistently remove external drug contamination to less than reportable cut-offs for all analytes. ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol deposited from cannabis smoke is mostly removed by organic solvents, whereas ionizable drugs are more effectively removed by an aqueous wash. Organizations such as the Society of Hair Testing recommend a hair decontamination procedure should include both an organic and aqueous washing step, which is in accordance with the reviewed literature. Studies involving a systematic evaluation of various solvents have shown that the most effective organic solvent was methanol and the most effective aqueous solvent contained sodium dodecyl sulfate detergent. If future systematic studies can demonstrate similar findings, a consensus on the most effective decontamination procedure for forensic hair analysis may be established.


Hair analysis External drug contamination Decontamination procedures Cocaine 9-tetrahydrocannabinol 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dylan Mantinieks
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dimitri Gerostamoulos
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Paul Wright
    • 1
  • Olaf Drummer
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Health & Biomedical SciencesRMIT UniversityBundooraAustralia
  2. 2.Victorian Institute of Forensic MedicineSouthbankAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Forensic MedicineMonash UniversitySouthbankAustralia

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