Archive for November, 2009

A Thanksgiving Tribute

In the words of the late, great Elvis, “Thank you….thank you very much.” [insert lip curl here]. 

This is the week where we all reflect on what we are thankful for.  Here is our tribute to you – our clients, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, advocates and referrers, and all who support our mission:

How To Come In Under Budget, At Least In Your Department…

I work for a toxicology testing laboratory, and my job is to help companies improve the health, wellness and safety within their organizations by obtaining testing services that match their specific needs and drug-free workplace program guidelines.  I am also a bottom-line leader, recognizing that a little prevention and proactive effort leads to greater productivity, profitability and employee satisfaction.  Yes, I am a “salesperson”, a bad word to some.  I am not a fan of the “salesperson” stereotype.  Someone has to be the liaison between a person that needs help with a problem and the solution.  I’ve also had the experience of working with someone addicted to prescription medications, all the way through her accident on company business.  I can tell you stories about unhappy and lost customers, other employees who left because her behavior was not dealt with, constant absenteeism – the list goes on.

I don’t believe in selling just to make a sale, which leads me to this rant.  I have now met with multiple business owners and/or human resources personnel to discuss their drug, alcohol and other occupational health testing needs who have put a big question-mark over my head.  I ask what they want to accomplish through their defined program, the level of risk in their work environment or by specific position and so forth – learning how I can offer options that match what they want to accomplish.  I just don’t understand their responses, which boil down to “we just want to drug test our candidates enough to get them on the job.”  In other words, we want the least amount of testing you can do so we can get people to work quickly.  This is reinforced by notifying candidates that they will be drug tested in a few days, sometimes a week, giving them time to potentially “clear” their system by stopping drug use short-term.

This is a conundrum for me – I totally understand budget if that were the case.  I understand DOT regulations and their limitations to a DOT 5 panel drug test.  I even understand that the person I am working with may not be aware of the number of options available to them.  I don’t believe in doing a test to just say you did and putting your head in the sand because it’s easier to deal with than screening more candidates or having to deal with telling prospective employees they did not pass, ie. feelings of rejection.

In my opinion, if you are going to drug test just because you have a piece of paper with a policy on it or because everyone else in your industry does it, while supporting processes that encourage “passed” drug tests even though a person is not usually “clean”, then don’t waste your money.  Save your budget for things like high performance rewards, low turnover acknowledgements and zero-accident recognitions.  Oh…. I guess you’ve already saved the company money because those won’t happen within this type of company culture.

Terri McCulloch, Director of Sales & Marketing

Hair Drug Testing – Your Past Substance Use Is All “Locked” Up

Drug testing using hair specimens is becoming more common in the workplace.  Formally called “hair follicle drug testing”, there is a misconception on how the sample is collected.  Hair is not plucked from the head to get to the root, or follicle.  Drugs enter through the hair follicle, the only “live” part of the hair.  As the hair grows out, substances of abuse remain in each strand. 

The hair is actually cut close to the scalp by a certified collector.  The standard hair drug test is for a 90 day period, though longer testing periods are possible depending on the length of a person’s hair. Since hair grows at a rate of ½” per 30 days, 1 ½” of hair, about the circumference of a pencil eraser, is cut from the head for a 90 day test.

So, why is hair drug testing a better investment for employers, especially those with higher risk and safety environments? History.  Urine has been the standard specimen collected for drug testing purposes for many years.  The problem with a urine drug test is the detection period.  Depending on how often a person may use drugs, the detection period can be anywhere between 3 to 10 days.  Unfortunately, employers have a tendency of giving pre-employment candidates a few days’ notice of a pending drug test, or schedule random drug tests during the same week every month.  The “experienced” drug users know how to get around the system – they plan, stop taking drugs for a few days, and even try methods of adulteration such as dilution or sneaking a drop of bleach into the testing facility.  Combine street knowledge with detection time, and an employer may not know the real story behind their job candidate.

Hair testing offers a snapshot of a candidate’s or employee’s more common social and/or abusive behavior.  Hair is extremely difficult to adulterate; therefore, a true picture of a person’s usual drug use pattern is more apparent.  In fact, hair can be segmented into 30 day periods at the request of the employer or client, offering an even greater glimpse of a donor’s history.  Another benefit to hair testing is the collection time, approximately 10 – 15 minutes.  An employer desires to get an employee back on the job quickly.  There are people who have trouble urinating upon request; therefore, they sit in the collection site for long periods of time, drinking water in an effort to complete their test.  It is not the same with hair collections.

What’s the downside?  Employers’ immediate response is “cost”.  Yes, the cost to test hair specimens is more than a urine sample.  However, random testing can be reduced since detection covers a 90-day period.  In addition, since so much planning goes into passing a urine drug test by astute substance abusers, an employer may not know they have a problem on their hands until it is too late.  How long does it take to handle internal problems, document the issues, then finally move to termination?  What if an accident occurred on-the-job and it was found the employee was under the influence?  Can an employer afford lost customers and a poor image due to the actions of an employee that might be under the influence of drugs though based on his or her past test results, may not be the immediate suspected cause?

It would be quite a challenge and probably wishful thinking that substance abuse could be completely eradicated in the workplace, given that nearly 1 in every 20 people use drugs; however, alternative testing specimens and program solutions can further reduce safety and risk factors, while improving a company’s overall health and well-being.

Pet Poisoning – From The Household to Pet Food Contamination

Our pets are very special, and the last thing we want is for them to become gravely ill.  Poisons and toxins, from everyday products to unknown contaminants brought over 140,000 calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA) in 2008.

 

The main causes for pet poisoning are usually found in or around our homes.  Pets that ingest some of the below-listed common poisons and toxins may have symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urination or thirst, hyperactivity, seizures and even death:

  • Human medications, from over-the-counter to prescription.  All it takes is one dropped pill on the floor.  Pain relievers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen are common culprits.
  • Plants
    • Lillies
    • Sago Palm
    • Tulip/Naricissus Bulbs
    • Oleander
    • Insecticides/Rodenticides
    • “People” Food, including but not limited to
      • Chocolate
      • Grapes/Raisins
      • Avocado
    • Chemicals
      • Anti-Freeze
      • Paint Thinner
      • Pool/Spa Chemicals
      • Household Cleaners
      • Fertilizer

There is also the possibility of contaminated pet food.  According to Dr. Ernest Lykissa, Forensic Toxicologist and ExperTox’s Scientific Laboratory Director, there were a number of cases in 2006 and 2007 caused by contaminated pet food shipped from overseas, most specifically China.  Dr. Lykissa stated that international companies were paid more for dog food with higher protein content.  When the food came into port, samples were tested for nitrogen, found in protein.  Unfortunately, these companies were adding “junk” to the food that would spike the nitrogen, giving the perception the food was rich in nitrogen, therefore protein.  They were really adding substances such as melamine and cynuric acid, all highly toxic to pets yet increased the amount of nitrogen in the food.  Since that time, testing and inspection has changed to better monitor the pet food product. 

Then, there are the periodic cases of intentional poisoning – neighbors, friends, family members – feeding a pet food or a treat laced with a toxic substance.  The act is not usually meant to kill the animal, only to cause illness as an act of revenge, desire to get rid of the animal or other personal reason.  Yes, these cases do happen and figuring out what caused a pet to become ill can be challenging.

What can you do if you suspect pet poisoning?  First of all, see your veterinarian immediately.  You can also access the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center at www.aspca.org.  Finally, if you have not been able to come up with an answer and need additional help, contact us.  ExperTox offers toxicology testing for pets, from individual chemicals and drugs that may be suspected to pet food panels, rodent poison panels and unknown drugs, poisons and toxins.

Have you experienced a situation where you thought your pet had been poisoned?  Share your story with us.

 


One Source…Numerous Options…Differences That Matter!

ExperTox® is a recognized forensic toxicology laboratory, combining advanced technology and science with a human heart.

We use our scientific expertise to provide our customers answers to their substance abuse, use and exposure questions.

We focus our personal character on supporting, caring for and understanding what our clients are going through as they contemplate and proceed through the testing process.

Our Tweets

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