FBI Laboratory’s Toxicology Program Achieves Accreditation
Madeline A. Montgomery
Forensic Toxicology Program Manager
The FBI Laboratory’s Toxicology Program is proud to announce that it has been granted accreditation by the American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT), effective May 1, 2007–July 1, 2008. ABFT is a nonprofit organization recognized by professional societies, including the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the Society of Forensic Toxicologists. ABFT certifies toxicologists and accredits laboratories performing forensic toxicology.
Forensic toxicology is one of several specialties practiced in the FBI Laboratory’s Chemistry Unit. The FBI Laboratory provides toxicological analyses in FBI cases throughout the United States and abroad. When able, the Laboratory also offers its experience and expertise in state and local investigations. Types of examinations range from postmortem toxicology to human performance testing to poisoning inquiries. Forensic toxicology evidence typically includes blood, urine, and/or hair from living people or autopsy samples such as liver, brain, kidney, vitreous humor, postmortem blood, and stomach contents in death investigations. Samples analyzed in the FBI Laboratory’s Toxicology Program also include food and beverage samples in suspected poisoning cases and commercial products in alleged product-tampering incidents.
The Chemistry Unit’s Toxicology Program sought accreditation with ABFT in order to invite outside forensic toxicologists to thoroughly evaluate the practices and procedures the unit follows in the discipline of forensic toxicology. This accreditation is in addition to the FBI Laboratory’s current accreditation with the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) but focuses more on the day-to-day challenges specific to forensic toxicology.
For example, quantitation is one aspect of forensic toxicology that is not common in many other forensic disciplines. Accurate quantitation relies on a structured quality assurance and control program. The FBI Laboratory’s Toxicology Program participates in a quantitative blood-alcohol proficiency-testing program, as well as a proficiency-testing program involving the quantitative testing of blood samples.
Validation is another quality assurance and control parameter important to forensic toxicology. The FBI Laboratory’s toxicology manual currently contains more than 30 validated standard operating procedures. Both quantitation and validation are important components of the ABFT accreditation.
Fewer than 30 laboratories throughout North America are currently accredited by ABFT. The FBI Laboratory is only the second laboratory to become accredited by both ASCLD-LAB and ABFT.