Volume 48, Issue 2 (March 2003)
Water-Soaked Evidence: Detectability of Explosive Traces After Immersion in Water
Various factors governing the detectability of explosive traces after being soaked in water were studied. The variables are: the type of the surface (surfaces liable to be found in aircraft were chosen), the type of explosive, the type of water (tap or seawater), and movement of the immersed surface in the water. The maximal immersion times (tmax) after which explosive detection was possible were evaluated. This datum was found to depend on the type of explosive (one of the important factors is solubility in water), the surface material and the environmental conditions (tap or seawater movement). Detection of PETN on high-density polyethylene, linoleum, glass and aluminum, by the chemical Explosive Testing Kit (ETK), was possible even after a month of soaking in seawater. In addition, it has been found that movement of bulk water around the samples with deposited explosives considerably decreases tmax values. It is, therefore, recommended to retrieve samples for explosive analysis as soon as possible and in areas where the currents of water is minimal.