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Bioterrorism: Processing Contaminated Evidence, the Effects of Formaldehyde Gas on the Recovery of Latent Fingermarks

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 52 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 1097-1102
Rebecca Hoile B.Sc.; Simon J. Walsh B.Sc.; Claude Roux Ph.D.
Date Published
September 2007
6 pages
This paper presents findings from an effort to recover latent fingermarks from a number of decontaminated porous and nonporous items that had previously been contaminated with anthrax spores.
The study found that the standard formaldehyde formulation for bacterial decontamination, although effective in destroying the contaminant, also affected the recovery of latent fingermarks, particularly from porous substrates. The testing of a revised method for bacterial decontamination showed that latent prints could be detected after decontamination for nonporous items; however, recovery of fingermarks from porous items such as paper showed a greater degree of sensitivity to exposure to the biological decontaminant. The revised method of decontamination involved incorporating a reduced concentration of formaldehyde and reduced exposure times. This resulted in the successful decontamination of moderately and grossly contaminated evidence within a 40-minute exposure period. Based on results, the authors recommend the following processing techniques in order to increase the possibility of successful latent fingermark recovery: ninhydrin or DFO or 1,2-indandedione followed by physical developer. The project was divided into three phases. Phase 1 determined the time required to expose contaminated items to formaldehyde gas in order to decontaminate them. Phase 2 involved determining the effect of formaldehyde gas on amino acids present in latent fingermarks; and phase 3 determined the effects of the decontamination process on the recovery of latent fingermarks by a selection of common methods. The items used in the testing were paper (porous) and glass (nonporous). 1 table, 5 figures, and 13 references


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