Medical Examiner

Toxicology

The toxicology section provides post mortem forensic toxicology in Medical Examiner's cases and human performance forensic toxicology services for Allegheny County law enforcement agencies.

Postmortem fluids and tissues are tested for the presence or absence of drugs and their metabolites, as well as other toxicants, including ethanol and other volatile substances, gases, such as carbon monoxide and cyanide and heavy metals. The blood levels of these toxicants are quantitated to aid in the determination of the cause and manner of death in Medical Examiner's cases.

Toxicological analyses are also performed on blood and urine specimens submitted by law enforcement agencies to determine the presence of ethanol and other drugs which may modify human performance ( i.e. the ability to operate a motor vehicle safely). Once identified, the blood drug levels are quantified and an interpretation of the blood level data is provided to the District Attorney's office.

Analyses are performed using a variety of techniques including immunoassays, high pressure liquid of chromatography and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.

The instrumentation is state-of-the-art to insure the results of the analysis are accurate and reliable.

The toxicology section is licensed and certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Laboratories and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As part of the licensing requirements, the section participates in proficiency testing programs provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the College of American Pathologists.

Typically, 1500 Medical Examiner's cases and 2,500 driving under the influence (DUI) cases are processed each year. Consultation and expert court testimony are provided to the District Attorney's Office, Medical Examiner's Office and other law enforcement agencies upon request.