DoD Seal
4553 N 2ND

3 June 1993

US Army Environmental Hygiene Agency
ATTN: CPT Elmer Kaiser
Field Services Branch, Building E1570
Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland 21010

SUBJECT: Cyanoacrylate Fuming Safety

Dear CPT Kaiser:

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input concerning cyanoacrylate fuming safety considerations for military police and other military investigators.  This procedure is used thousands of times daily by police worldwide, and is the single most successful technique for developing latent fingerprints on nonporous evidence.  We are concerned about the safe application of cyanoacrylate fuming and welcome your interest in this important matter.

As promised in my telephone conversation with you on 21 May 1993, I am enclosing the procedures and safety considerations we have previously published in laboratory newsletters to CID and military police investigators.  Basically we urge that the fuming be conducted in a well ventilated area, that fire hazards be considered, and that heat sources (hot plates) which could release poisonous gases not be utilized.

Several safety lectures on latent print processing were presented at the International Symposium on the Forensic Aspects of Latent Prints at the FBI Academy last week.  Mr. Michael E. Barsan of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) presented a one hour lecture outlining his recently completed survey (HETA 92-147) involving cyanoacrylate fuming in laboratory and field conditions.  NIOSH tested both normal laboratory (fume hood and large cabinet/open room) and the most extreme non-laboratory (fuming an entire car under plastic in a garage) conditions.

The gist of the NIOSH and other presentations confirmed our safety recommendations for cyanoacrylate fuming as published to military investigators.  Cyanoacrylate fuming has been performed worldwide by police for the last seventeen years.  In talking with my peers from Japan, Israel, Russia, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, etc., it is apparent that the health guidelines outlined in my second paragraph above are embraced worldwide.

All police agencies can cite instances of rooms evacuated and persons getting a "face full" of cyanoacrylate fumes from poorly ventilated conditions.  However, reported injuries involving cyanoacrylate fuming occur from burns due to inadvertent touching of hot metal surfaces the glue is sometimes heated on, or from burns (normally first or second degree) due to the exothermic reaction of cyanoacrylate with cotton clothing (compounded by the adhesion of the hot, glue impregnated cloth to underlying skin).  We firmly direct investigators NOT to use hot plates and we suggest investigators use small containers of cyanoacrylate to minimize potential skin and clothing contact.

One significant cyanoacrylate fuming health note was brought to my attention during a personal conversation with delegates from Scotland.  Although polymers are known to sometimes sensitize people on even the very first exposure, the only known occurrence involving cyanoacrylate fuming has been documented in Scotland.  A latent print examiner in Fife was sensitized by cyanoacrylate fumes and can no longer tolerate any exposure.  His symptoms ceased without continued exposure and his work assignment has been adjusted to preclude further contact.

If you desire further information about this one known case, you may contact: James M. Strachan, Fingerprint Division, Fife Constabulary, Police Headquarters, Wemyss Road, Dysart, Fife, KY1 2YA, Scotland, United Kingdom (phone 0592-52611, Extension 255).  Also, you may be able to receive a draft copy of NIOSH HETA 92-147 by contacting Michael E. Barsan, NIOSH, Mail Stop R-11, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45226 (phone 513-84 1-4374).

Please feel free to contact us for any further information.

              EDWARD R. GERMAN
              CW3, USA
              Latent Print Examiner
 (1999 WWW Note:  The lab address at the top of the page here is the new address the US Postal Service assigned to the Army Crime Lab in 1996, versus what appeared on the 1993 letterhead.  Also, the original letter just had a black and white logo at the top of the page.  German was promoted to CW4 in October 1993 and CW5 in April 1999.)