Employers and government and law enforcement agencies need to ensure that drug tests are conducted accurately because a new study has found that certain less-expensive testing methods on certain baby soaps and shampoos have produced false positive tests for marijuana in infants.
The results of the study, reported in the June issue (PDF) of the medical journal Clinical Biochemistry, have potentially significant implications for state agencies, which in some states have the authority to remove a child from parental custody. In essence, the products that a parent uses to care for a child could be falsely tested to indicate that the parent is engaging in abuse.
As Stephen C. Webster reports in The Raw Story, researchers at the University of North Carolina found that five commonly used household soaps and hospital gel soaps triggered false positives in drug tests. Two ingredients — polyquaternium 11 and cocamidopropyl betaine — were found to be “showing strong reactivity” with chemicals in less expensive drug tests, producing the false positive results, the researchers found. Less than 0.1 milliliters of those chemicals in a drug test sample could contaminate the results. The study was prompted when nurses in hospitals near the university noticed an unusual uptick in positive drug tests in infants.
The chemicals are not related to marijuana and are both used in common household items, such as toothpaste, shampoo, makeup, hair dye, and cleaning agents. Therefore, it would not be surprising to find trace amounts of these products in urine, saliva, or in hair follicles, which less expensive drug testing used by employers and law enforcement agencies could detect.
“Given these consequences, it is important for laboratories and providers to be aware of this potential source for false positive screening results and to consider confirmation before initiating interventions,” the researchers wrote in the journal article. “Most importantly, we demonstrate the need for active involvement in the ‘total testing process’ as sources of error are not confined to the laboratory walls.”
Source: “Study: Chemicals in baby soaps can trigger marijuana-positive drug tests,” The Raw Story, 6/19/12
Image by Crounias, used under its Creative Commons license.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.