Laboratory analysis of hair allows scientists to determine many things about the subject, such as gender and race. The technology is widely used for numerous purposes including pre-employment testing, and testing for toxic substances.
Why It Works
Because hair resists decomposing and is chemically stable, it is ideal to use when searching for physical evidence of certain substances. Unlike samples of urine or blood, hair retains traces of these substances, creating a longer-term record ideal for testing. Hair follicle testing results hold bragging right of being over ten times more accurate than other testing methods.
Used widely by potential employers, hair strand analysis for drug testing has become very common. Hair taken from the scalp during a visit to a laboratory goes through testing to determine whether the subject is using such drugs as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, PCP, and marijuana. Additionally, many employers require staff to sign a waiver, allowing them to request a new drug test at any time.
Mercury poisoning causes neurological disorders. Symptoms include fatigue, irritability, depression, and insomnia. Hair analysis determines if unsafe levels of the element mercury are present in a body. The preferred test is cold vapor atomic absorption.
Forensic criminal scientists use strand testing to find evidence for use in criminal cases and in autopsies. Tests used in these cases are able to glean large amounts of helpful data including the presence of blood, chemicals, and other important elements. Through the science of forensic testing, the identities of many deceased individuals, previously labeled as "John Doe", were discovered, allowing closure for grieving families.
Hair analysis can determine whether the subject's dietary intake is appropriate to maintain health for their body and help them know what foods they need to increase in their diet. These tests produce a comprehensive picture of a subjects overall health including potential vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Doctors use the result of these tests to design appropriate diet plans for their patients.
- Bergen County Technical Schools: Hair Analysis
- Department of Health and Human Services: Hair Analysis Panel Discussion
- University of Pennsylvania: Hair Analysis Schaffer Drug Library: Analysis of Hair for Cocaine Boston.com: Firms turn to hair test to check for drug use
MaineGeneral.org: Hair Might Reveal Hidden Eating Disorder