Chemistry Matters' Blog

news and blog entries from the Chemistry Matters team

  • Blog
  • Blog
  • Arson sample collection - Any old paint can will do? Part 1
Arson sample collection - Any old paint can will do? Part 1

Arson sample collection - Any old paint can will do? Part 1

Share this

As I was preparing my training seminar for a presentation on Forensics Laboratory Analysis and Process to be delivered at Life of a Fire Investigator seminar being hosted by the Fire Investigation Association of Alberta (FIAA), I came across some information on cans for sample collection. I thought it would be good to share in this blog and during my talk.

Answer: No, they will not.

First off, we can’t call them paint cans, they are stainless steel cans (actually, they are tin coated steel to be precise). But, lets remember that the industry producing these cans being used for potential forensics evidence collection are producing them for the paint industry. They are not worried about a little grease or residue from the manufacturing process contaminating a forensics sample at the parts per billion level.

Lined can or not lined? What is a lined can?

A lined can is a stainless steel can with an epoxy chemical liner that is placed inside the can to prevent corrosion (for water based materials). There are different types of proprietary liners for these cans. They can have potential interferences for arson investigations.

Not all liners are equivalent

A colleague recently passed along information about potential issues with lined stainless steel cans used for arson sample collection. I was able to find the information on the following website.

Basic summary of the information from the weblink above is that gold epoxy lined cans when analyzed by for ILRs showed the presence of compounds that could be identified as potential accelerants as a result of their manufacturing process. The article above suggests using Grey epoxy lined cans instead. This is an issue with using containers that are manufactured for a different industry than what they are being used for. The manufactures of lined cans are not worried about aromatics being present on the cans because, ultimately, they will usually be used to contain paint, not forensic arson evidence.


Any old paint can won't due.  The money put towards investigations requires diligence on all fronts, including sampling and sampling containers.  Contact your lab or myself if you have questions regarding sampling for arson investigations.

About the Author

Court Sandau

Court is the President and owner of Chemistry Matters – a niche environmental consulting firm which specializes in geoforensics, environmental forensics, biomonitoring, and arson investigations. As an international speaker and expert chemist, Court is often called upon to provide his expert services in oil & gas investigations and litigious chemistry issues.

Read Full Bio

Join the Chemistry Matters Newsletter