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May 16, 1986

Commercial Hair Analysis: Science or Scam?

Author Affiliations

Health Research Institute Clarendon Hills, III

JAMA. 1986;255(19):2603. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370190087021

To the Editor.—  I read your Aug 23, 1985, article1 on hair analysis with great interest. For the past eight years, my colleagues and I have engaged in scientific research studying elemental concentrations in the hair of violent subjects,2 children with learning disabilities, and victims of Tourette's syndrome. The Health Research Institute has developed identical hair standards of known composition that (along with certified materials from the National Bureau of Standards) provide a foundation for our experiments. We have spent years testing the ability of commercial and research laboratories to perform a proper chemical analysis of human hair.There is no doubt that serious abuses of hair analysis are widespread in this country and that Stephen Barrett's topic is timely. Unfortunately, his experimental protocol includes a mistake that renders his data and conclusions valueless. His use of shoulder-length hair from teenaged girls represents a classic case of improper sampling.