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The Use of Liquid Latex for Soot Removal from Fire Scenes and Attempted Fingerprint Development with Ninhydrin

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Throughout the United States, clearance rates for arson cases remain low due to fire’s destructive nature, subsequent suppression, and a misconception by investigators that no forensic evidence remains. Recent research shows that fire scenes can yield fingerprints if soot layers are removed prior to using available fingerprinting processes. An experiment applying liquid latex to sooted surfaces was conducted to assess its potential to remove soot and yield fingerprints after the dried latex was peeled. Latent fingerprints were applied to glass and drywall surfaces, sooted in a controlled burn, and cooled. Liquid latex was sprayed on, dried, and peeled. Results yielded usable prints within the soot prior to removal techniques, but no further fingerprint enhancement was noted with Ninhydrin. Field studies using liquid latex will be continued by the (US) Virginia Fire Marshal Academy but it appears that liquid latex application is a suitable soot removal method for forensic applications.
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Keywords: Ninhydrin; fingerprinting; fire investigation; forensic science; liquid latex; soot removal

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Virginia Fire Marshal Academy, 1005 Technology Park Drive, Glen Allen, VA 23059-4500.

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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