Chemistry and Physics Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Assessment of human scent volatiles for the discrimination of individuals

Event Name/Location

86th Annual Meeting, Florida Annual Meeting and Exposition / Innisbrook, FL

Presentation Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Human scent, or the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by an individual, has been recognized as a biometric measurement because of the distinct variations in both the presence and abundance of these VOCs between individuals. In forensic science, human scent has been used as a form of associative evidence by linking a suspect to a scene/object through the use of human scent discriminating canines. The scent most often collected and used with these specially trained canines is from the hands because a majority of the evidence collected is likely to have been handled by the suspect. However, the scents from other biological specimens, especially those that are likely to be present at scenes of violent crimes, have yet to be explored. Hair, fingernails and saliva are examples of these types of specimens. ^ In this work, a headspace solid phase microextraction gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (HS-SPME-GC-MS) technique was used for the identification of VOCs from hand odor, hair, fingernails and saliva. Sixty individuals were sampled and the profiles of the extracted VOCs were evaluated to assess whether they could be used for distinguishing individuals. Preliminary analysis of the biological specimens collected from an individual (intra-subject) showed that, though these materials have some VOCs in common, their overall chemical profile is different for each specimen type. Pair-wise comparisons, using Spearman Rank correlations, were made between the chemical profiles obtained from each subject, per a specimen type. Greater than 98.8% of the collected samples were distinguished from the subjects for all of the specimen types, demonstrating that these specimens can be used for distinguishing individuals. ^ Additionally, field trials were performed to determine the utility of these specimens as scent sources for human scent discriminating canines. Three trials were conducted to evaluate hair, fingernails and saliva in comparison to hand odor, which was considered the standard source of human odor. It was revealed that canines perform similarly to these alternative human scent sources as they do to hand odor implying that, though there are differences in the chemical profiles released by these specimens, they can still be used for the discrimination of individuals by trained canines.

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