While blood is the primary biological sample that is received, urine and tissue samples are also received for testing. The blood, urine, or tissue samples are analyzed using an Agilent Headspace Gas Chromatograph with flame ionization detector and Mass Spectrometer. For analysis, a small portion of an individual’s sample is placed into a vial with an internal standard that acts as a measuring stick and goes into every sample on the run. The vial is then sealed and placed on the instrumentation where it goes into an oven and is heated. Once heated, any volatiles within the sample will convert from a liquid into a gas and rise into the empty space above the vial known as the headspace area. A needle then punctures through the stopper of the vial and takes a small portion of the headspace gas and sends it through the gas chromatogram. The gas chromatogram is a very long thin tube that essentially separates any compounds in the gas based on their physical and chemical properties. After some time, the individual compounds will pass through the flame ionization detector which will quantify or measure the amount of the compound. The sample then continues in to the mass spectrometer where it is fragmented. The fragmentation pattern is specific to that compound which allows it to be identified. The method used for alcohol analysis also incorporates the quantitative analysis of methanol, isopropanol, and acetone, which are volatile compounds ingested or produced by the human body.
Additionally, the alcohol section is responsible for making sure that alcohol analysis follows the guidelines set forth by the California Department of Public Health in the California Code of Regulations, Title 17 as well as providing testimony when called upon for alcohol related charges.