Labs That Test Transportation Workers Face Inquiry

Labs That Test Transportation Workers Face Inquiry
Posted by FoM on October 08, 2000 at 19:44:26 PT
Martha Brannigan, Staff Reporter WSJ
Source: Wall Street Journal
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is launching inspections of all 65 federally certified drug-testing labs that test transportation workers after a case involving a Delta Air Lines pilot raised doubts about the process used to validate samples at a lab in Kansas. Delta, Atlanta, said Friday that five employees -- including the pilot and four flight attendants -- who were fired after LabOne Inc. reported their urine samples had been "substituted," will be offered reinstatement because of "doubts about the reliability of test results." 
Delta said it plans to replace LabOne, Lenexa, Kan., after an independent review -- conducted in connection with the pilot's appeal -- raised questions about how the lab processed samples. Delta didn't detail its concerns with LabOne, a publicly traded company that also performs testing for the insurance industry. In a memo to its employees Friday, Delta said it is revamping its drug-testing policy to strengthen safeguards for employees. Among other things, the carrier intends to use an independent lab inspector to verify lab processes and results in cases where samples are found to be substituted or adulterated. Questions about LabOne's validation of urine samples surfaced during an administrative proceeding before the National Transportation Safety Board, in which Delta's Doukas Siotkas, 47 years old, was fighting a Federal Aviation Administration move to revoke his pilot's license. Mr. Siotkas was tested for drugs after a Rome-to-New York flight in July 1999 and the results showed a zero level of creatinine, a metabolite found in urine. Creatinine levels are measured to verify that a urine sample is bona fide, and under federal guidelines, a reading of 5 milligrams per decaliter or less is deemed to be substitution of a sample -- in effect, cheating on the test. No further testing of the sample for the presence of drugs is typically conducted. During the NTSB proceeding, the Air Line Pilots Association, which has been vigorously challenging the scientific legitimacy of drug-test validation, raised concerns that LabOne's reported measurements for creatinine weren't precise enough. In particular, the lab at the time of the test was reporting creatinine levels in whole numbers, rather than to a decimal point, as federal guidelines issued in July 1999 provide. Last month, the FAA, faced with doubts about the lab tests, settled with the pilot, allowing him to keep his license. In an interview, Dr. Michael Peat, president of LabOne's substance-abuse testing division, said the lab hasn't been privy to details of the Delta case, but said he remains confident its practices are solid. "We're very careful about how we perform drug tests and test for substitution," he said. "It's our strong belief and opinion that we report all results correctly." Dr. Peat said LabOne had updated its procedures by January 2000 to report creatinine levels to the decimal point and insisted its earlier practice hadn't altered the reliability of results. He said LabOne is "disappointed" in Delta's decision to switch labs. In light of the Delta case, HHS sent four inspectors to LabOne during the past two weeks. Robert L. Stephenson, acting director of the division of workplace programs at HHS's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said that on Friday, the agency -- eager to see how widespread the practice of using round numbers may be among drug-testing labs -- sent questionnaires to all 65 laboratories that are federally certified to perform drug tests on transportation employees. The purpose, he said, is to check their protocols for validating urine samples. At the urging of the Department of Transportation, HHS is also gathering data from the labs on all tests done on workers regulated by DOT, since validity testing began. A DOT spokesman said the agency "is concerned other labs may have conducted similar tests without completely implementing all test procedures." Mr. Stephenson said HHS plans to expedite inspections of labs to check how they handle validation tests. Robert Morus, spokesman for the Airline Pilots Association, said the union is heartened by Delta's actions to strengthen safeguards and reinstate employees, but believes the drug-validation test is unscientific and unfair. He said the test can produce false results, particularly in vegetarians, petite women and people who drink large quantities of water -- all of whom may show low levels of creatinine. Complete Title: Labs That Test Transportation Workers For Drugs Face Inquiry Over SamplesAuthor: Martha Brannigan, Staff Reporter for The Wall Street Journal Write to Martha Brannigan at: martha.brannigan wsj.comSource: Wall Street Journal (US)Author: Martha BranniganPublished: October 2, 2000 Copyright: 2000 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Contact: letter.editor Address: 200 Liberty StreetNew York, NY 10281 Fax: (212) 416-2658 Website: CannabisNews Drug Testing Archives:
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on October 09, 2000 at 04:52:26 PT:
More to the point
If every person asked to provide a urine sample poured it on the floor and walked out of the testing station, what could the testers do? You did your part; you gave them the sample they wanted. If they want to check its' warmth and do a litmus test, let them have at it.
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Comment #1 posted by EdC on October 09, 2000 at 03:24:26 PT:
tainted wee-wee
A bill to require drug testing of members of Congress and their staffs quietly died. It was said to be "unnecessary and demeaning." If all of us refused, using the same logic, drug testing would quietly die.
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