New devices approved for drug driving testing by Nick Boley
May 27, 2015, 16:05
Filed under: Drugs, Forensics, UK Government Information | Tags: , ,

The Home Office have approved two further devices for carrying out roadside testing in cases of suspected driving whilst under the influence of illegal drugs.

The two devices are:

  • Draeger DrugTest 5000, previously approved for preliminary drug testing in 2012, and now for mobile preliminary drug testing from March 2015 for cannabis and cocaine
  • Securetec DrugWipe 3S S303G, approved for mobile preliminary drug testing from December 2014 for cannabis and cocaine

These are welcome developments in having validated and reliable testing devices available to police forces for the detection of drug driving. Devices for the detection of other illegal drugs are not yet available and, as we posted previously, no certified reference materials (CRMs) are available as yet to support these devices and their use. This distinguishes them from the roadside testing regime in place for drink driving cases.


REACH restriction submitted on D4/D5 in personal care products by Nick Boley

The UK authorities have submitted their application to CHA for a restriction under REACH on the use of the cosmetic ingredients D4 (octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane) and D5 (decamethylcyclopentasiloxane) in wash-off personal care products. The proposal asks that an upper limit of 0.1% applies to each of these.

These can be determined analytically by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). A further siloxane in this family, D6 (dodecamethylcyclopentasiloxane), is frequently found in mixtures with D4 and D5, but is not included in the scope of this restriction application.


New Drug Drive legislation for March 2015 by Nick Boley

New legislation which covers the subject of drug driving come into force in the UK on 2 March 2015. This legislation, published by the Department of Transport, aim to improve road safety by setting limits for the levels of 8 illicit drugs and 8 prescriptions drugs in the bloodstream. These are set so that levels above are associated with impairment to drive. The levels for the illicit drugs are very low, but those for the prescription drugs (clonazepam, diazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, temazepam, methadone and morphine) are much higher to reflect average to above-average prescription use so that those drivers keeping to any prescribed dose would be safely below the legal limits.

There is also a proposal to add amphetamine at a level of 250 µg/L to the new legislation – this level is sufficiently high not to catch legitimate users of amphetamine for medical purposes (e.g. those suffering with ADHD).

The Government Chemist responded to a consultation issued in 2014 by the Department of Transport and the response can be accessed here. One of our major concerns is that for legislation like this to be fully effective, measures need to be in place similar to those for drink-driving such as validated roadside tests and certified reference materials (CRMs) to underpin laboratory measurements for drugs in blood. The measurement uncertainties associated with many of these measurements are significantly higher than those associated with alcohol in blood measurements, and these can, in turn, lead to higher uncertainty in the interpretation of results. This is an issue which does, in our opinion, need to be properly resolved for the legislation to have the effect for which it was designed.

NAO Concern over Forensic Science Oversight by Nick Boley
January 21, 2015, 11:01
Filed under: Forensics, UK Government Information | Tags: ,

The National Audit Office (NAO) have published a report, in the form of a briefing for the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, about the Home Office oversight of forensic science in the UK.

Whilst much of the report’s findings are well outside the scope of this blog, there are some which are not. The NAO is concerned that there is a lack of transparency regarding the level of forensic work undertaken in internal police laboratories, with particular regard to the volume and cost of services provided, and, more worringly, the accreditation status of these laboratories.

All external providers of forensic services to police forces must hold accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 for the work they carry out. Internal providers are also meant to hold such accreditation, but not all have achieved it yet. The report notes that the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) has no powers to monitor this and ensure compliance, in contrast to the Regulator’s powers with regard to external providers. This has implications for the quality of work carried out in some laboratories, where it can not be independently demonstrated to be of the quality demanded. This could be detrimental, potentially, for the Criminal Justice System (CJS).

It is always recommended that analytical measurements should be covered by accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 so that confidence in the results is higher, and systems in place to check the quality of measurements. The cost of implementing and maintaining accreditation is not insignificant, and the report highlights the lack of a level-playing field in this regard. This could undermine forensic science provision and lead to withdrawals or cost-cutting for external providers, which would also impact negatively on the quality of forensic work and therefore on the CJS.


New EA approach to hazardous pollutants discharges by Nick Boley

The Environment Agency will be introducing more stringent rules covering discharges of hazardous chemicals in surface waters. following a partial response to a consultation on this subject which closed in December 2013 to amend the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.

The procedure for screening hazardous pollutants in water discharges will be tightened, with the emphasis on the more toxic pollutants and is aimed to deliver compliance with the agency’s “no deterioration” policy which requires “control of discharges which cause more than 10% deterioration against the EU Environmental Quality Standard (EQS)”.

One of the main concerns about this change of direction is from those responsible for measuring pollutants in laboratories – including water companies. The methods of analysis available for many of the most highly toxic pollutants which would be caught by this change struggle to cope with the current levels as specified in the EQS and so there is a potential large cost to laboratories to gear up their procedures to cope. The ability of measurement methods to enforce and monitor pollution under any regulatory regime is an important aspect and should not be ignored.


New drink-drive limits in Scotland by Nick Boley
December 8, 2014, 10:26
Filed under: transport, UK Government Information | Tags: , ,

The Scottish Government have introduced a lower alcohol limit for drivers on 5 December (SSI 328/2014). This differentiates Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom in that the legal maximum alcohol level in blood has fallen, for blood,  from 80 mg per 100 mL to 50 mg per 100 mL, for urine from 107 mg per 100 mL to 67 mg per 100 mL, and for breath from 35 µg per 100 mL to 22 µg per 100 mL.

This brings Scotland into line with a significant number of EU countries. In order to enforce this new legislation, forensic laboratories will need to amend their measurement methods in order to accurately determine, with a known uncertainty of measurement, alcohol in blood and urine at these new , lower, levels. This will not present any challenges, and certified reference materials (CRMs) containing alcohol at these levels to support these measurements are already widely available. Roadside testing equipment used by Police Scotland must also be ale to cope with these changes, and CRMs are also widely available at the lower levels to calibrate and validate the equipment used, for example from LGC Standards.

A specific concern to may in Scotland now is the “morning-after” effect, when alcohol level residues from the previous day could render drivers over the new limit where they would not have been previously. Some companies have been marketing products for use by drivers to check their status in the morning, such as Alcosense™, specifically aimed at Scotland and the new lower level. These check the breath alcohol level, convert to blood alcohol level, and are for guidance. They have no legal status. The principle on which these devices work is similar to the roadside devices used by the police. They have been shown to have high precision, i.e. they are consistent. However, no data has ever been produced to demonstrate their absolute accuracy although anecdotally they appear to give expected results based on intake. The accuracy claims of manufacturers need to be understood by the user. Accuracy to 0.2 % blood alcohol level (equivalent to 20 mg per 100 mL blood) may look very impressive, but for the new Scottish law equates to a relative potential error of ± 40 %. So, if it reads 0.3 % you may be OK, you may not. If it reads 0.7 % you are probably not OK, but on the other hand you may be just OK. This has the effect of building in a safety margin, but the interpretation of the data, as with any handheld device for personal measurement of anything (e.g. cholesterol, blood sugar), is key and the responsibility ultimately lies with the user.




Advice to Local Authorities on Oil Spill sample handling and collection by Nick Boley
December 4, 2014, 14:24
Filed under: Environment/Ecology, UK Government Information | Tags: ,

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has published a STOP (Scientific, Technical and Operational) Advice Note to Local Authorities on oil spill sample handling and collection.

This note is aimed at giving guidance and describing procedures on how local authority officers should proceed in taking samples from oil, or chemical, spills, and how to handle any samples taken.

The guidance highlights the information which should be provided to help with any subsequent analysis to identify the nature of the spill, and lays down procedures on labelling of samples and sealing them into secure bags. This is of particular importance in demonstrating continuity of evidence if legal proceedings are taken and it is essential that in can be proved that samples have not been tampered with.