Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $63,753)
The El Paso County Coroner's Office will use FY2015 Coverdell funding to improve the quality and timeliness of forensic services, specific to alcohol analysis, for over 1000 autopsy cases by purchasing new, upgraded laboratory equipment for comprehensive postmortem laboratory analysis. Grant funding will be used to purchase a Gas Chromatography- Flame Ionization Detector (GC-FID)with dual column capability to perform head space blood volatile analyses to vastly decrease the turnaround time and quality for these forensic samples to be processed.
Gas Chromatography- Flame Ionization Detection or GC-FID is a very common analytical technique that is widely used in toxicology laboratories. The GC-FID typically uses a Hydrogen/Air flame into which the sample is passed to oxidize organic molecules and produces electrically charged particles (ions). The ions are collected and produce an electrical signal which is then measured.
The El Paso County Coroner's Office investigated 3854 cases in FY2014 and of those cases autopsied 1049 cases. Of the 1049 cases autopsied blood-alcohol analyses were performed on all of these cases. Many of these cases have no alcohol involvement that would have any bearing on the case one way or another, however at least 10% of these cases play a significant role in determining the cause and manner of death and whether law enforcement need to be involved in the case.
The GC-FID with dual column capability will allow the El Paso County Coroner's Office to perform ethanol and other alcohol analyses by identifying the ethanol on two columns that alter the retention time. Hence, by obtaining a GC-FID more samples can be tested at a time, reducing backlog, and providing greater assurance, by comparison, that the samples are accurately being analyzed.
The Coroner's Office needs to be able to process these cases quickly and accurately, and with our current instruments we are falling behind. The GC-FID with dual column capability will allow the El Paso County Coroner's Office to perform ethanol and other alcohol analyses by identifying the ethanol on two columns that alter the retention time. Hence, by obtaining a GC-FID more samples can be tested at a time, reducing backlog, and providing greater assurance, by comparison, that the samples are accurately being analyzed. In an instance, such as a vehicular homicide, where law enforcement needs to be involved and charges are being filed with District Attorney's Office it is imperative that the Coroner's Office has a device that makes an accurate, quality analysis of a person's blood-alcohol and we can do so in a timely manner. Currently, we are backlogged due to the single column device that is making it
difficult to keep up with demand. Moreover, the current instrument provides marginal quality results sometimes exceeding two standard deviations from the norm on proficiency testing. It is crucial that we obtain a new, improved GC-FID.
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