Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A recipe for reagent stew with expired chemical

It seems that it's always something with those folks up at the Southwest Institute of Forensics in Dallas. Our latest adventure in forensics has us making a reagent with an expired chemical. What could be the harm in that?

In today's story, lab analyst AML prepared a reagent for the entire lab to use. AML used an expired chemical in her concoction -- it's noted in the Lab Reagent Notebook entry dated August 28, 2009. AML seems to have no problem with breaking lab protocol by using an expired chemical in a solution that will be used to test evidence in criminal cases.

Lab analyst NV, on the other hand, wasn't so sure it was that great an idea. When she discovered what had happened, she reported it to the lab supervisor SM*. SM had the reagent QC'd (tested for quality control) and decided it was okay to use. (Interestingly enough, lab protocols do not call for this particular reagent to under QC testing prior to use.) This QC test wasn't run until after the reagent had been used for several months testing items of evidence.

*That couldn't possibly be our friend, Dr. Stacy McDonald, could it?

But, not to worry, we'll just give the chemical a new expiration date. See, that wasn't so hard, was it?

Now, what have we learned today?
  1. It's okay to use expired chemicals for testing evidence in criminal cases.
  2. It's okay to ignore written lab protocols.
  3. It's okay to QC chemicals after they've been used to analyze items of evidence.
  4. It's okay to fabricate expiration dates on chemicals.
12 01 2009 Expired Chemical Lab Notebook (2)

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