Checking syringes for silicone and blood following illegal cosmetic injections

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  • Published: Apr 22, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Infrared Spectroscopy
thumbnail image: Checking syringes for silicone and blood following illegal cosmetic injections

The illegal injection of silicone, or polydimethylsiloxane, for cosmetic purposes can be detected by a two-fold approach in which the polymer is analysed by FTIR spectroscopy and the blood by a micromechanical test.

This approach was set up by the US FDA following several reports of illegal practice in which silicone was injected into various parts of the body, including the lips, face, breasts and buttocks. The application of silicone in this way is not illegal but its administration by unlicensed people is. In the past it has led to health problems such as pulmonary embolism and even death.

The problem in detecting silicone in syringes is that some manufacturers add it to the syringe to reduce friction, so the cosmetic polymer must be distinguished from that already present. Writing in Journal of Forensic Sciences, the researchers explained how they took samples from areas of the syringe where polydimethylsiloxane is not normally added by the manufacturer. They chose the luer-lock mechanism at the bottom of the syringe barrel.

Using ATR-FTIR spectroscopy, it was relatively simple to identify and confirm the presence of the polymer. For a particular case study, the polydimethylsiloxane was actually distinguished from that added by the manufacturer by comparing it to the spectrum of lubricant from an empty syringe that came with the needle. Two different types of polymer were evident.

A second problem occurred due to peak distortion in the spectrometer with the potential result that the chemical differences between the cosmetic and syringe polymer could be misinterpreted. This was solved by overfilling the sample aperture so that the thin film of sample was thickened and provided a more representative spectrum.

Legally, the presence of foreign polydimethylsiloxane in the syringe does not signal improper use. For this, the added presence of blood in the syringe is required. With these two pieces of evidence, the blood could be submitted for DNA analysis to match the blood of the victim.

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