More than 10% of people have cocaine on their fingers, whereas they never used the illegal drug. The narcotic is proving to be a very common contaminant.
You may have cocaine on your fingers, even if you have never consumed the narcotic. This was demonstrated by a Dutch study conducted by six researchers affiliated with the University of Surrey in Great Britain, the Forensic Medicine Institute of the Hague and the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.
The study was done in partnership with the English firm Intelligent Fingerprinting. It will soon be unveiled in the journal Clinical Chemistry, following a first publication in 2017.
The purpose of the research was to test the reliability of a drug test using fingerprinting via mass spectrometry. But during the process, scientists found cocaine on the hands of 13% of the participants whom have never used drugs. On 1% of the people, there were traces of heroin.
As for the good faith of the participants, the test, “establishing a threshold of significance”, makes it possible to distinguish the presence of drugs due to consumption from that resulting from a secondary transfer. But how do we explain such results?
“Believe it or not, cocaine is a very common environmental contaminant. “We know it is present on many banknotes,” said Melanie Bailey, co-author of the study. “But we were still surprised to detect in so many of our fingerprint samples,” she added.
According to the study, a simple handshake suffice to transfer the drug from one person to another and soap cleaning is not enough to eliminate cocaine.
The researchers plan to expand their testing to screen for cannabis, amphetamines and other contaminants.