Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science

The secondary transfer of fibres from head hair

R. Palmer & M. Banks. Science & Justice, 45(3), pp. 123-128. (2005).


In this study, the effects of fibre type, hair style, time and fibre persistence on the secondary transfer of mask fibres to pillowcases via head hair were studied. Volunteers with a range of hair styles, and masks consisting of different fibre compositions were used in the study. Fibres from the masks were found to transfer from donor subjects to the pillowcases up to 14 nights after the mask had been worn. On average, the number of secondarily transferred fibres found decreased with time; however, this decrease appeared to be more ‘linear’ in nature, rather than an exponential decay. The greatest degree of secondary transfer occurred with cotton, then acrylic, then wool. In a primary transfer/persistence experiment with a 50% acrylic/50% wool mask, wool was found to persist in the hair more readily than acrylic. The results also showed that the greatest degree of secondary transfer occurred via short straight and long straight hair, with no clear pattern emerging between medium length hair (both straight and curly) and with long curly hair. The implications of these findings for the assessment and interpretation of casework are considered along with data obtained from related studies.

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