Following a CBRN incident, first responders use decontamination procedures to reduce the risk of exposure. The effect of decontamination on forensic trace material has, however, not been fully examined. This study sought to evaluate the effect of five different physical or chemical decontamination materials on the recovery of latent fingerprints. Fingerprints were deposited on glass slides, decontaminated, and assessed on the presence of ridge detail. The results demonstrate that decontamination affects the quality of latent fingerprints substantially. On at least 61% of the fingerprints, a reduced amount of ridge detail was observed upon decontamination. Furthermore, development with cyanoacrylate appeared not to succeed anymore. Instead, the ability of vacuum metal deposition to successfully develop decontaminated fingerprints is demonstrated. The results from this study may contribute to an increased forensic awareness regarding decontamination and emphasize the necessity for further research into new item decontamination procedures or new forensic initiatives prior to decontamination.
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