Occupational exposure of police officers to illicit drugs - comparing exposure to the outcomes of hair and urine testing

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

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Introduction: Officers in the New South Wales Police Force have a range of exposures to drug samples and trace drug residues during the course of their duties, ranging from contact with surfaces previously contaminated by drug exhibits, through to the handling of drugs seized in large scale operations and the processing of stored evidence. Officers are subject to workplace testing for drugs, however the potential link between workplace exposure and positive drug tests has received limited research attention worldwide. This project aimed to measure workplace contamination and direct exposure to a suite of 23 illicit drugs (including cocaine, opioids, amphetamines, benzodiazepines and cannabinoids), and to compare the results to the outcomes of urine and hair analysis. Method: Samples were collected from potentially contaminated surfaces, clothing and skin using cotton swabs containing alcohol. Swabs were extracted and analysed by LC-QQQ mass spectrometry. Air samples were collected under a range of conditions and analysed by mass spectrometry. Urine and hair samples were collected from volunteers working in the presence of drug exhibits. Urine samples were analysed by a commercial laboratory by the same method as for random drug testing. Hair samples were handled and prepared according to the protocols required by NSW Police and were analysed by LC-QQQ mass spectrometry. Results & Discussion: Drug residues were detected on a number of surfaces including hard surfaces in the workplace, vehicles, clothing and skin. Some low level residues were likely to have resulted from contact transfer from hands or items previously in contact with more contaminated sites. Air samples returned negative results for airborne drugs on almost all occasions (except when cannabis was exposed to high temperatures) but other compounds including plant volatiles were detected. All urine samples returned negative results for all drugs included in the screening, despite the presence of residues in the working environment. A small number of hair samples were also collected and the results will be discussed. Conclusion: Drug residues could be detected at a wide range of concentrations in the working environment, but were generally low for surfaces not commonly in direct contact with drug samples. While there is scope to reduce exposure to drug residues further, no positive urine tests were returned by officers working in these environments.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event54th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT) - Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 28 Aug 201601 Sep 2016
http://www.tiaft.org/tiaft-meetings.html (Past TIAFT meetings)


Conference54th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT)
OtherThe 54th Annual meeting of the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT) will be held in Brisbane the capital city of the Sunshine state, Queensland Australia. The 2016 conference will be a joint meeting of TIAFT and FACTA (Forensic and Clinical Toxicology Association Inc. of Australasia). FACTA holds annual scientific meetings in Australasia and is a registered association in Australia.

TIAFT was founded in London on April 21, 1963. TIAFT encompasses over 1500 members from all regions of the world who are actively engaged in analytical toxicology or allied areas. The aims of the association are to promote cooperation and coordination of efforts among members and to encourage research in forensic toxicology. TIAFT members include representatives from police, medical examiners and coroners' laboratories, horseracing and sports doping laboratories, hospitals, departments of legal medicine, pharmacology, pharmacy and toxicology laboratories.

This TIAFT meeting brings together other key specialists including co-hosted sessions with the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT) on alternative specimens and the International Association of Therapeutic Drug monitoring and Clinical Toxicology (IATDMCT) on clinical toxicology. The Australian and New Zealand Society of Mass Spectrometry (ANZSMS) will also join TIAFT for specialist session in mass spectrometry.

The conference program will consist of traditional scientific topics (post-mortem toxicology, alternative matrices, analytical methodologies etc.) and feature a local focus on venomous animals and their poisonous toxins. Invited world renowned experts will be presenting the latest and up to date information on envenomation, treatment and mortality outcomes following poisoning by a variety of creatures. Sessions on new analogues (synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants) as well as evolving techniques including a focus on mass spectrometry will be covered at this meeting.
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