Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Your hair can reveal your crime

LONDON: An examination of a single piece of hair can help police to track down a criminal's whereabouts, claims a new study.Presenting their results at the British Association for the Advancement of Science Festival in Exeter, Stuart Black and his colleagues from the University of Reading claimed that their discovery can help the police to find a criminal by measuring the ratio of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in their tissues."Hair is particularly good because it grows about a centimetre a month. So, it actually grows a record of not only where you have been, but what you have been eating and drinking," The Newscientist quoted Black as saying.This technology could greatly help police in their investigations and immigration officials in deciding whether people seeking asylum are arriving from appropriate countries or not."We're not going to get a postcode. It will only get as far as a regional level, but that may be good enough for some cases," Black adds.Until now, researchers had been using these isotopes to investigate a wide range of things like the source of air pollution or how butterflies migrate. But this is the first application of the method on living human beings.The technique, however, has some limitations such as when a person drinks large amounts of bottled water, the isotope sample could resemble the water's original source more than person's current location. Secondly, police admits that tracking frequent travellers is difficult.But despite these shortcomings, the researchers are convinced about the efficacy of their discovery."It would be a cheap and fairly rapid technique. That's really important to a police investigation," Black concluded.


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