Quality Assurance Guidelines for Laboratories Performing Forensic Analysis of Chemical Terrorism: Scientific Working Group on Forensic Analysis of Chemical Terrorism (SWGFACT)

Article excerpt


The Scientific Working Group on Forensic Analysis of Chemical Terrorism (SWGFACT) has developed the following quality assurance guidelines to provide laboratories engaged in forensic analysis of chemical evidence associated with terrorism a framework to implement a quality assurance program. This document provides guidance to laboratories that carry out forensic analysis to support the judicial system. Consideration may be given to alternate methods of achieving the intent of these quality assurance practices as outlined in these guidelines. A quality program is always evolving, and likewise, this document should be considered a living document.


SWGFACT's mission is "to develop guidelines for the forensic identification, characterization, and attribution of evidence in planned, threatened, or actual acts of chemical terrorism." The Quality Assurance Guidelines for Laboratories Performing Forensic Analysis of Chemical Terrorism may be used by laboratories to structure or enhance their quality assurance practices in the analysis of chemical terrorism. SWGFACT emphasizes the importance of complying with applicable international, federal, state, and local regulations, specifically in the areas of sample shipment, hazard containment, and personnel protection.


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Federal Bureau of Investigation DNA Advisory Board. Quality assurance standards for forensic DNA testing laboratories, July 1998, Forensic Science Communications [Online]. (July 2000). Available: www.fbi.gov/hq/lab/fsc/backissu/july2000/codis2a.htm.

Scientific Working Group on Microbial Genetics and Forensics. Quality assurance guidelines for laboratories performing microbial forensic work, Forensic Science Communications [Online]. (October 2003). Available: www.fbi.gov/hq/lab/fsc/backissu/oct2003/2003_10_guide01.htm.

International Organization for Standards/International Electrotechnical Commission. ISO/IEC 17025, General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories. American National Standards Institute, New York, 1999.

Suggested Reading

SW-846 Manual: Test Methods for Evaluating Solid Waste, Physical/Chemical Methods. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC. Available: www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/test/sw846.htm.

Select Agents and Toxins, Title 42 CFR Part 73, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC, 2003. Available: www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/42cfr73_03.html.

1. Scope

These guidelines describe quality assurance activities that a laboratory should follow to ensure the quality and integrity of the data and competency of the laboratory. A laboratory, in the context of these guidelines, is defined as a facility in which analyses associated with chemical terrorism is performed. These guidelines do not preclude a laboratory by itself or in collaboration with others from participating in research and development.

2. Definitions

As used in these guidelines, the following terms shall have the meanings specified:

Administrative review is an evaluation of examination documentation for consistency with laboratory policies and for editorial correctness.

Analytical procedure is an orderly step-by-step instruction designed to ensure operational uniformity and to minimize uncertainty.

Attribution is the identification of the source of a material to the degree that it can be ascertained.

Audit is an inspection used to evaluate, confirm, or verify activity and documentation related to quality.

Calibration is a set of operations that establish, under specified conditions, the relationship between values provided by a measuring instrument or measuring system and a known value. …