Volume 36, Issue 4 (July 1991)
Turpentine in Arson Analysis
Arson analysts have always struggled with the problem of finding turpentine in debris from suspicious fires. Is it manufactured turpentine or the natural product of wood? Two research projects are presented as one analyst's approach to this problem. First, in arson cases in which oleoresin was found, the species of woods were identified by microscopy. A softwood was identified in each of these cases, and 60% of the woods identified were yellow pine. Second, known samples of wood were analyzed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, and their constituents were compared with turpentine. Some hardwoods contained terpenes, but these would not be confused with turpentine during routine arson analysis.