The National Center for Forensic Science Ignitable Liquids Reference Collection and Database

By Allen, Stephen P.; Williams, Mary R. et al. | Forensic Science Communications, April 2006 | Go to article overview

The National Center for Forensic Science Ignitable Liquids Reference Collection and Database


Allen, Stephen P., Williams, Mary R., Bryant, Craig, Byron, Doug, Cerven, James, Cooper, Bradley D., Hilliard, Dennis C., Hoffmann, Judi, Kwast, Jason, Thomas, Sherrie A., Whitcomb, Carrie M., Forensic Science Communications


History

A national survey of forensic science laboratories conducted in 1998 revealed that an ignitable liquid reference collection and database were the most important needs in the fire debris analysis community (Allen et al. 2000). In August 1999, members of the Technical Working Group for Fire and Explosions (TWGFEX) declared an interest in meeting this need. The database would include the total ion chromatogram and the extracted ion profiles of ignitable liquid products. Associated with this database would be a repository of ignitable liquids available to forensic science laboratories and maintained by the National Center for Forensic Science (NCFS) at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. An ad hoc committee of TWGFEX members was established to begin developing the database and repository.

In February 1999, in anticipation of forming an operational committee, TWGFEX worked to derive a Definition of Work for the project. The objectives were to establish, maintain, and provide a comprehensive, single source for ignitable liquids and a comprehensive gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) database for ignitable liquids. The committee sought to provide an accurate, dependable product to the forensic community in a reasonable amount of time and at an affordable cost.

The Ignitable Liquid Reference Collection Committee (ILRCC), made up of TWGFEX members, was established to give oversight to the database and repository. The committee includes 8 to 10 members from the fire debris analysis community (Appendix A). The NCFS at the University of Central Florida, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and a contracted laboratory were all considered logical locations for the repository, with the NCFS chosen as the designated facility. NCFS personnel are permanent members of the ILRCC to give continuity to its operations and to ensure the integrity of the repository.

The goal of the ILRCC was to have a single laboratory produce and disseminate data on the ignitable liquids that may be found in fire debris. Considerations important to the committee included:

* Establishing the database in a 12- to 18-month time frame.

* Ensuring a long-term commitment.

* Using existing capital equipment.

* Maintaining the same laboratory and technician, if possible.

* Designating an on-site supervisor.

* Guaranteeing the ability of an oversight committee to manage and ensure quality.

* Maintaining a minimum of 300 reference ignitable liquids; 500 would be preferable.

* Providing data with each ignitable liquid sample.

* Including data on extracted ion profiles.

* Using total ion chromatograms.

* Dedicating one mass spectral instrument to facilitate the project.

* Validating test results prior to making data available.

* Using a consistent approach regarding analytical procedures.

* Using analytical methods approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

* Maintaining the database on the NCFS Web site.

* Determining access restrictions to the database and repository.

* Remaining alert to increased workloads, with a decrease expected after 18 to 24 months.

The committee's function was to specify which standards should be collected and which samples were appropriate for evaporation, as well as to determine GC-MS conditions and to review all data. In the interest of obtaining samples from wide geographical areas, the committee solicited volunteers to submit liquid samples to the repository.

The Ignitable Liquids Reference Collection and Database

Ignitable liquids serve many purposes required by society and fall within a variety of commercial classifications and subclassifications. Examples of ignitable liquids included in the database are gasoline; refinery stock; camping fuels; naphthas; specialty solvents; cleaners; charcoal starters; paint thinners; kerosene; jet fuels; lamp oils; diesel fuels; fuel oils; cleaners; paint thinners; charcoal starters; aviation gasoline; and refinery specialty mixtures, such as normal alkane, isoalkane, aromatic, and dearomatized mixtures. …

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