Bioterrorism: Processing contaminated evidence, the effects of formaldehyde gas on the recovery of latent fingermarks

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Journal Article
Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2007, 52 (5), pp. 1097 - 1102
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In the present age of heightened emphasis on counter terrorism, law enforcement and forensic science are constantly evolving and adapting to the motivations and capabilities of terrorist groups and individuals. The use of biological agents on a population, such as anthrax spores, presents unique challenges to the forensic investigator, and the processing of contaminated evidence. In this research, a number of porous and nonporous items were contaminated with viable anthrax spores and marked with latent fingermarks. The test samples were then subjected to a standard formulation of formaldehyde gas. Latent fingermarks were then recovered postdecontamination using a range of methods. Standard fumigation, while effective at destroying viable spores, contributed to the degradation of amino acids leading to loss of ridge detail. A new protocol for formaldehyde gas decontamination was developed which allows for the destruction of viable spores and the successful recovery of latent marks, all within a rapid response time of less than 1 h. © 2007 American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
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