WEEK SEVEN: More in-depth forensic toxicology

Yajaira G -

Hi Peeps!

This week was filled with more learning! Instead of going to the office on Monday, I went on Wednesday, 3/28, because there was a lecture that I attended. The lecture was on forensic toxicology. Here are a few things I learned: Forensic toxicology is not taken from every case; it will be taken depending on the decedent’s medical records, autopsy findings, and the circumstances surrounding the death. A few of the samples that will be taken for forensic toxicology are blood (e.g., femoral, subclavian, and cardiac blood), vitreous fluid, urine, gastric contents, and much more. Keep in mind, though, that the toxicology done on a decedent will be very different from that done on a living person; it will be both physically and chemically different. This is because depending on the degree of decomposition it may interfere with it.

If the decedent had drugs within their system the drugs would diffuse from a higher concentration into the surrounding tissues and organs. When testing for drugs there will be different testing that will be done: screening and confirmatory testing. For screening tests, think of it as a yes or no answer, where there is a possibility of a false positive or negative. Confirmatory testing is the only method that will be 100% specific, so it will be accurate in determining if it’s positive or negative.

Testing for poisons is different because they can’t test for everything. To do testing they have to have a poison that they believe was used to be able to test for the limited biological samples. The two poisons I learned about were arsenic and cyanide. Arsenic is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Depending on the number of dosages given with arsenic there will be different reactions. If it is a single large dose it can cause loss of consciousness, death within hours or days, etc… and for toxicology, they will take blood or urine samples to test. If it was chronic dosing there would be weakness, abdominal pain, death within weeks, etc… For this, they will take hair samples to test. What I learned about cyanide is that it has a bitter almond scent, and the decedent will have cherry pink lividity which is not common, but carbon monoxide and hypothermia are some of the other few things that can cause a cherry pink lividity. An interesting thing I learned was if there is a person who is a daily smoker their blood levels will show low doses of cyanide which can be up to 0.042 mg/L (Toxic: 0.25-5 mg/L, Lethal: 1-100 mg/L).

These are just a few things that I learned about Forensic toxicology. I find it to be fascinating!

Thanks for reading!!!

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