Effective July 3, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will suspend blood-alcohol and blood-drug testing performed at its toxicology laboratory until further notice.
During this suspension, the state toxicology lab will complete the work on samples currently in the testing process. Unprocessed specimens will be sent to an independent lab after consultation with the agency that submitted the sample. New specimens that come to the state toxicology lab during the suspension will be rerouted to another lab for processing.
Department Executive Director Dr. Chris Urbina said, “We will have an independent laboratory retest approximately 800 blood-alcohol samples to verify the state toxicology lab’s blood-alcohol test results. We take seriously the concerns from law enforcement, public defenders and the public – and this is the best way for us to verify the accuracy of testing at the toxicology lab.”
An independent lab, AIT labs, will conduct the retesting. The 800 samples will be randomly selected to ensure a representative sample, and will be selected from test results completed during the last 12 months. Results of the tests will be made public.
During the suspension, the department will continue to implement improvements at the toxicology laboratory. The first step will be a complete audit by the Association of Public Health Laboratories of the state toxicology laboratory’s procedures. The audit team will comprise laboratory experts from other state toxicology laboratories. Results of the audit will be made public.
Lab staff members will continue their training on updated standard operating procedures and industry best practices. In addition, the toxicology lab’s testing equipment will be inspected (and recalibrated) to make sure the equipment meets board of health certification standards.
Only the blood-alcohol and blood drug testing is being suspended. All other services provided by the state lab will continue. Those services include:
· screening for newborn illnesses
· breath alcohol testing for law enforcement
· bioterrorism surveillance
· zoonotic disease testing (plague, rabies, West Nile Virus, hantavirus, avian flu)
· human disease testing (foodborne illnesses, TB, STDs, vaccine-preventable diseases)
· radiochemical and radiation testing
· water and air testing
· milk testing