March 01, 2017

The “CSI” in Environmental Forensics: Using Compound-Specific Isotope Analysis in Legal Matters

Silvia Mancini, William Pence, Mike Kavanaugh, Mark Davidson, an dBarbara Sherwood Lollar

Stable isotope tools provide a powerful line of evidence in civil and criminal forensic investigations. Some of the most notable cases in America that utilized stable isotope evidence include the 2001 anthrax attacks case and the 2001/2003 shoe bomber case. The U.S. Department of Justice, Amerithrax Investigative Summary, February 19, 2010; Sarah Benson et al., Forensic Analysis of Explosives Using Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS)—Preliminary study on TATP and PETN, 49 Sci. & Justice 81–86 (2009). Stable isotope forensics has been practiced for decades with applications in food authenticity, assessing geographic origins of explosives and narcotics, as well as the geographic origins of unidentified human remains.

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