Air quality inside police drug safes and drug storage areas

Gregory S. Doran, Ralph Deans, Carlo De Filippis , Chris Kostakis, Julia A. Howitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Storage of drug-based evidence inside sealed safes may allow chemical vapors to accumulate, creating concerns of drug exposure by inhalation, or the possibility of cross-contamination of drug evidence. Air samples were taken from inside eight drug safes and one small storage room at nine city and country police stations, as well as a large centralized drug evidence storage vault, in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Sorbent tubes containing charcoal were used to determine whether any drug residues could be detected in the air, and to identify the types of chemicals present. Carbon traps were extracted and analyzed by LC–MS-MS for a suite of 22 licit and illicit drug residues and 2 metabolites. Carbon traps and SPME fibers were also analyzed by GC–MS for general volatile organic compound (VOC) residues. No detectable drug residues, either as airborne dust or vapor, were found in the safes, the storage room or the large central repository vault. No drugs were detected in any of the 34 urine samples collected at 8 of the 10 sampling locations, while only one of the five hair samples was positive for cocaine (9 pg/mg) provided by police exhibit officers at 3 of the 10 sampling locations. VOC analysis identified a variety of solvents associated with drug manufacture, plasticisers, personal care products and volatiles associated with plants such as cannabis. The results indicate that strong chemical odours emanating from drug safes are unlikely to be drug residues due to low volatility of drugs, and are more likely VOCs associated with their manufacture or from plant growing operations. Consideration should be given to the quality of air flow in rooms in which safes are housed and the use of air filtering inside safes to reduce the likelihood of VOC accumulation, and therefore the risk of human exposure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-364
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Analytical Toxicology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


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