External contamination of hair with cocaine: evaluation of external cocaine contamination and development of performance-testing materials
Stout PR, Ropero-Miller JD, Baylor MR, Mitchell JM.
Center for Forensic Sciences,
RTI International,
3040 Cornwallis Road Research Triangle Park,
North Carolina 27709, USA.
[email protected]
J Anal Toxicol. 2006 Oct;30(8):490-500.


The National Laboratory Certification Program undertook an evaluation of the dynamics of external contamination of hair with cocaine (COC) while developing performance testing materials for Federal Drug-Free Workplace Programs. This characterization was necessary to develop performance materials that could evaluate the efficacy of hair testing industry's decontamination procedures. Hair locks (blonde to dark brown/black) from five different individuals were contaminated with cocaine HCl. Hair locks were then treated with a synthetic sweat solution and hygienic treatments to model real-life conditions. Hair locks were shampooed daily (Monday through Friday) for 10 weeks, and samples of the hair locks were analyzed for COC, benzoylecgonine (BE), cocaethylene (CE), and norcocaine (NCOC). Three commercial analytical laboratories analyzed samples under three protocols: no decontamination procedure, individual laboratory decontamination, or decontamination by an extended buffer procedure at RTI International. Results indicated substantial and persistent association of all four compounds with all hair types. Hair that was not decontaminated had significantly greater quantities of COC and BE than did hair that was decontaminated. The only hair samples below detection limits for all four compounds were those decontaminated 1 h after contamination. Additionally, BE/COC ratios increased significantly over the 10-week study (regardless of decontamination treatment). From 21 days postcontamination until the end of the study, the mean BE/COC ratio for all hair types exceeded 0.05, the proposed Federal Mandatory Guidelines requirement. The largest variability in results was observed for samples decontaminated by participant laboratories. This suggests that current laboratory decontamination strategies will increase variability of performance testing sample results. None of the decontamination strategies used in the study were effective at removing all contamination, and some of the contaminated hair in this study would have been reported as positive for cocaine use based on the proposed Federal Mandatory Guidelines.

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