P0103 - Unknown Chemical Products Identification in Suspicious Mail, Parcels, Packaging or in the Environment, Drinking Water, Food Matrices and Any Other Vector Subsequent to a Deliberately Malicious Act or One Due to Negligence

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Forensic Department "Environment-Fire-Explosives"

Job title of the first author :

Forensic Expert - Forensic Department "Environment-Fire-Explosives", IRCGN


Within the scope of discovering Unknown chemical products identification in suspicious mail, parcels, packaging or in the environment, drinking water, food matrices and any other vector subsequent to a deliberately malicious act or one due to negligence, the National Advisory Unit (Cellule Nationale de Conseil CNC) is alerted regarding to the Circular 750/SGDSN/PSE/PPS - february, 18 2011.

Aims :

This unit will dispel the doubt if it is a substance suspected to be a hazardous radiological, biological or chemical agent. Once they dispel the doubt and acknowledge the safety of it, the powder or the liquid can be sent at the Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale (IRCGN), as a member of the BIOTOX PIRATOX National Laboratories Network (RNLBP).

Material & methods :

In that case, this unidentified product enters in an analytical strategy that involves infrared spectrometry as a first step. On one hand, the mineral part is analysed by CI/MS, Scanning Electron Microscopy, XRD and LA/ICP-MS. On the other hand, the organic part is analysed by GC/MS and LC/HRMS.

Results :

For instance, a suspicious package coming from Jordan containing a white powder was sent to a French company without any references. The letter was seized and sent to the IRCGN in order to be analysed. Thanks to the powerful analytical material available at the IRCGN, we have demonstrated that the white powder turns out to be monobenzone or at least a close isomer.

Monobenzone isn’t authorized in France, and it is used as an active principal in the Pharmacopoeia for skin treatment, like depigmentation. Our set up enable us in a quick period to highlight potentially dangerous product in close collaboration with the CNC.

Conclusion :

The IRCGN’s skill now spreads to the emergency network of the “BIOTOX-PIRATOX” National Laboratories Network under the join support of the Secrétariat Général de la Défense et de la Sécurité Nationale (SGDSN) and the health ministry.

Keywords :

Analytical Strategy, Identification, Suspicious Package


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