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Subject Soot and Carbon Black Sourcing: Sometimes It's Marijuana!

EMSL examines several  cases of potential fire damage in residential areas. Many cases are from insurance claims trying to prove or disprove smoke damage from wild fires. Not only confirming the presence soot by specialized TEM techniques that EMSL has developed, but also determining the source is often required. EMSL has developed many chromatographic techniques to detect and identify trace chemicals in present in soot that can be used to help understand were it may have originated.  EMSL has been able to successfully source soot from fuel oil heaters, diesel engines, candles, cooking/kitchens, and from tobacco smoke to name a few. In one case, a large insurance company sent in samples from a household in which they suspected the claim was fraudulent. The household was located several miles from any known wild fire location, clamed smoke damage, and were requesting approximately $60,000 from the insurance company to cover damages. The samples did in fact contain soot but did not show characteristics of wild fire smoke. However, upon sourcing, three canabinoid chemical compounds, commonly associated with marijuana use, were found in significant quantities. With that information in hand, it did not take long for the insurance company to convince the household to drop the claim. Thus, EMSL saved the insurance company several thousand dollars, and a potential lengthy lawsuit.

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