A New Method for the Detection of Ignitable Liquid Residues on Arsonist Suspects Hands

Dan Muller, Aharon Levy, Ran Shelef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In most investigations the investigator focuses on the circumstances under which a fire breaks out. In cases of arson the investigator has another significant task-to link the suspect to the fire and scene of crime. One method is to examine the suspect's palms for flammable residue consistent with the substance used at the crime scene. In the past several methods were suggested to sample hands. These methods, however, all have a shortcoming: either they suffer from low sensitivity, or they are impractical to use under field conditions. This article presents a new and innovative method with high sensitivity and simple to use in the field. The method is based on passive adsorption using a charcoal strip placed on hands that are placed into a sealed bag for an hour. This is done in the field or in a police station immediately after the arrest of a suspect. The charcoal strip is sent to the laboratory for examination to determine if flammable traces are present. This method was introduced into use in Israel in 2010 and has led to positive results in numerous cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-402
Number of pages10
JournalFire Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Activated charcoal
  • Fire investigation
  • Forensic sciences
  • GCMS
  • Hands
  • Ignitable liquids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality

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