Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Research Shows Explosives Remain Part Of Human Hair

April 6, 2004
University Of Rhode Island
The comb, that simple device millions of people pass through their hair every day, could become the latest tool in the battle against terrorism.

KINGSTON, R.I -- March 17, 2004 -- The comb, that simple device millions of people pass through their hair every day, could become the latest tool in the battle against terrorism.

That’s because a group of University of Rhode Island researchers has found that chemicals used to make bombs remain in the hair of explosives handlers long after repeated washings.

The lead researcher, Professor of Chemistry Jimmie Oxley, one of the co-directors of URI's Forensic Science Partnership, has also found that when the research team members attached ordinary gauze to combs, they had effective collection devices.

"We are very excited about what we found, because I didn’t know what to expect to find in terms of persistence," Oxley said.

"We’re at the very early stages of developing a practical field technique to link the perpetrator to a crime," the chemist said. "(Oklahoma City bomber Timothy) McVeigh had (the explosive) PETN on his shirt. If someone like him changes his shirt, we could still test his hair."

The team's early findings are the result of a two-year, $320,000 grant awarded by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. Located in Oklahoma City. The institute was incorporated Sept. 23, 1999, and grew out of the desire of the survivors and families to have a living memorial of the Murrah Federal Building bombing of April 19, 1995.

Oxley, who titled the study "A New Source of Evidence: Explosive Traces in Hair," said she pursued the research because hair readily absorbs odors, such as those from cigarette smoke, it is being used for evidence of drug use and because it is washed less frequently than hands and clothes.

She wanted to know if all explosives are absorbed equally well, if hair color and type affect adsorption, and whether the explosive, with time and washing, remains persistent. Ultimately, she hopes to establish a protocol that can be established for law enforcement use. Adsorption is the surface assimilation of a gas, vapor or dissolve matter.

"We wanted to know if we could get the same chemicals out that we put in," said URI Chemistry Professor Louis Kirschenbuam.

The research is being conducted in two phases at both URI and in the United Kingdom, where subjects have been preparing dog-training aids. In the first phase at URI, cut hair was exposed to explosive vapors to see which ones were adsorbed. The persistence of adsorption was studied for washed and unwashed hair. In the U.K, researchers combed subjects’ hair before and after explosive handling. Then, subjects' hair was re-sampled after a time interval and shampooing. Phase 2 of the work being done at URI will study the significance of hair pigment, sex, and race, while Phase 2 in Great Britain will develop law enforcement protocols for recovery of explosive residues in hair.

Oxley's team has been examining absorption of common military explosives, such as TNT, PETN and RDX, as well TATP, the suicide bombers' explosive. RDX is the main component of C-4, while PETN is used in detonation cords, sheet explosives and plasticized explosives.

In the TNT-tainted hair exposed to air at URI for six days, only small decreases in TNT levels were detected. Hair tainted with TNT and PETN that was washed three times and rinsed still retained small levels of the explosive.

"Finding the chemicals after washing, that’s what might turn out to be important," Kirschenbaum said. "I think it’s safe to say that volatile chemicals can migrate into the hair. Once it’s on there, it's truly stuck."

In addition to Oxley and Kirschenbaum, team members are URI Chemistry Professor James Smith and chemistry graduate students Kajal Shinde and Kishore Marimganti.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Rhode Island. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

University Of Rhode Island. "Research Shows Explosives Remain Part Of Human Hair." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 April 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040406083933.htm>.
University Of Rhode Island. (2004, April 6). Research Shows Explosives Remain Part Of Human Hair. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040406083933.htm
University Of Rhode Island. "Research Shows Explosives Remain Part Of Human Hair." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040406083933.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This

More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) Japan's bullet train turns 50 Wednesday. Here's a look at how it's changed over half a century — and the changes it's inspired globally. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) Police body cameras are gradually being rolled out across the US, with interest surging after the fatal police shooting in August of an unarmed black teenager. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) A ceremony marking 50 years since Japan launched its Shinkansen bullet train was held on Wednesday in Tokyo. The latest model can travel from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 319 miles, in two hours and 25 minutes. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robotic Hair Restoration

Robotic Hair Restoration

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A new robotic procedure is changing the way we transplant hair. The ARTAS robot leaves no linear scarring and provides more natural results. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins