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WIREs Forensic Sci

The evolution of environmental forensics: From laboratory to field analysis

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Environmental forensics aims to provide investigations into pollution incidents to establish the source of the pollution and any environmental or human health impacts. Casework is strongly reliant on field investigations and subsequent laboratory‐based analysis for confirmation of pollutants present. Current advances in field‐portable instrumentation are shaping the environmental forensics discipline and provide an evolutionary change in the operational capabilities of environmental investigators. The implementation of field‐portable equipment into the environmental investigative framework provides great advances and opportunities, but also needs to be performed with caution to ensure reliable results. Combining the use of field‐portable instrumentation with small mobile forensic laboratories provides for a rapid and flexible emergency response capability that can also be applied to non‐emergency scenarios to aid pollution mapping and tracking, including source determination. The field‐portable equipment can be used in the controlled environment of the mobile laboratory, but can also be used in‐situ where required. Although field‐portable equipment is not likely to replace laboratory‐based analysis methods in the near future, it does provide important intelligence to the field investigator, resulting in a more targeted and detailed investigation of the scene. This allows for a more focussed laboratory‐based investigation and will result in more rapid and appropriate investigations into environmental incidents. Ultimately, this will ensure a better protection of the environment and human health. This article is categorized under: Forensic Chemistry and Trace Evidence < Forensic Food and Environment Analysis
Trailer‐based mobile laboratory, equipped with field‐portable equipment. The mobile laboratory is completely self‐contained and can operate for up to a week in remote locations without the need for external power or water. Photos: Dr Robert Ebeyan
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