Supporting evidence based practice in child protection cases: quality of hair analysis results

The quality of the analysis of drugs in biological material in the forensic area is important because the results of the analysis affect judicial decisions.

When you, a Social Worker or a Legal professional, request a drug test in hair to be used in cases of child protection, the results provided by the laboratory need not only to be clear but of a quality level according to certain strict standards. In other words, you need to know the results are accurate.Accuracy

Who are the providers of drug testing in hair samples?

Hair testing is provided to you by 1) testing laboratories and by 2) hair testing re-sellers. 

Re-sellers contract out the work to testing laboratories who are always the ones who actually perform the tests.

There are, in the current market, many re-sellers who are the intermediate connection between the customer and a hair testing laboratory, who contract out the analytical work to those few laboratories providing the test. In many cases, this is not clear to the customer.

There are only a few qualified testing laboratories that hold quality standards and even fewer testing laboratories are accredited for the wide range of drugs that are usually tested.

 The re-seller of hair drug testing does not need to be accredited, but customers need to be aware of which accredited laboratory they are utilising for the testing.

What is laboratory accreditation?

Accreditation standardsLabCheck

The technical standard which is the basis of the international guidelines is the ISO/IEC 17025 – which is recognised by the international technical community, including the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists.

The Society of Hair Testing (SoHT), an association that brings together scientists specialising in the analysis of drugs in hair samples worldwide, founded in 1995, recognises ISO/IEC 17025 as the international Standards for drug testing in hair.

ISO/IEC 17025 is the technical and administrative competence standard that takes into account all factors related to the production of reliable and traceable analytical results, in other words it is the standard that ensures that a laboratory is managed, and  has the scientific, technical and administrative knowledge, experience and skill to produce a quality result. The areas it covers include: technical and managerial personnel; facilities and control of the test environment; chain of custody of samples; choice of method of analysis, validation of methods, accuracy tests, precision and other parameters of control of the analytical method; determination and proper use of measurement uncertainty; control data and records; suitability, calibration and maintenance of equipment, both those producing results as auxiliary; traceability of measurements and calibrations; sampling and sample handling; quality assurance of the results, including proficiency testing and presentation of results and management of the quality system as a whole.

The basic standard of proper accreditation for drug analysis laboratories is thus ISO/IEC 17025.

Check if the laboratory you are using or the testing lab your re-seller uses is accredited for the tests and drugs you need

Laboratory Accreditation is given by bodies with international recognition. In the UK, ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation is granted by UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service). Each testing laboratory is issued with a testing laboratory number. For example, 7484 is Cansford Laboratories’ UKAS Testing Laboratory number.
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Accreditation is test specific, in order for a test to be accredited, both the parent drug and metabolite should be detailed on the laboratory’s schedule of accreditation. For example, labs could state they are accredited for testing a hair sample for Cannabis, however, unless they are accredited for the parent drug (THC) together with a metabolilte (e.g. THC-COOH), the Cannabis test as a whole is not accredited.

The details of each lab’s accreditation can be viewed on by clicking here then enter the company name and click on testing labs, this will show if a company is accredited. If they are, it will also state their schedule of accreditation.

Checking in this simple way will enable you to be sure that you are getting the best possible service to meet your drug testing needs. 

 

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