Kit Detects Trace Amounts of Drugs

A company that helps the FBI look for drugs is introducing a $20 kit that will let parents secretly test their children.

Called DrugAlert, the kit can detect trace amounts of up to 30 illicit substances, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, LSD and PCP, according to its maker, Barringer Technologies Inc. of New Providence, near Newark, N.J. Barringer introduced the test this week and its share price soared Wednesday on the Nasdaq stock market.

A doctor at a psychiatric clinic said Wednesday that the device might be beneficial, but a civil liberties lawyer said he's concerned corporations could use it to spy on their workers.

The kit contains a moist pad that can be wiped across clothing, books or furniture to pick up drug residue. The pad then can be dropped in a special envelope and mailed to the manufacturer for laboratory analysis.

"Anyone who has been in contact with illegal narcotics will inadvertently acquire trace amounts of the narcotic," Stan Binder, Barringer's chairman and chief executive, said Wednesday. "For instance, a cocaine user will have traces on his hands and clothing. These traces will find their way to his car, his school locker and objects in his room."

DrugAlert is being sold through the mail. If Barringer detects drugs, it mails the information back to the parent with advice on what to do. Parents can also get the results confidentially over the phone.

The testing process destroys the sample, so there is no way it could be used as evidence in court, Binder said. Binder cautioned that a positive test result does not necessarily indicate a child is a drug user. Traces could be left by another person or picked up through innocent contact.

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