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Scientists have demonstrated a way for police to quickly and safely test whether a baggie or other package contains illegal drugs without having to handle any suspicious contents directly. The new technique can limit the risk of accidental exposure to fentanyl and other highly potent drugs that can be dangerous if a small amount is accidentally inhaled.
The proposed method involves swiping the outside of a baggie then analyzing the swipe for drugs in the same way that airport security officers swipe carry-on luggage to detect explosives. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and state forensic laboratories in Maryland and Vermont have demonstrated that this approach can reliably predict whether a package contains fentanyl, even if mixed with cocaine, heroin or other substances. Their research was published this week in Forensic Science International.
Way - Drug - Evidence - Ed - Sisco
"What's needed is a fast and safe way to screen drug evidence so that it can be handled appropriately," said Ed Sisco, a research chemist at NIST and the lead author of the study. For instance, hazardous packages can be flagged so they are opened only under a laboratory fume hood.
The swipe method works because opening a bag contaminates its outside surface. "If you've ever opened a bag of flour, you know that some of it poofs into the air," said NIST co-author Elizabeth Robinson. "That's just the way lightweight powders behave."
Street - Drug - Police - Evidence - Bit
Before fentanyl became a common street drug, police often field-tested evidence by scooping a bit of powder into a solution that would change color depending on what type of drug was present, if any. But many police departments now discourage or prohibit such "color tests" in the field for safety reasons. Instead, officers must send the suspected drugs to a crime lab, then wait for a result before getting a search warrant or making...
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