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Drug Testing News
Drug testing using
By LYNN OKAMOTO
Register Staff Writer
Saliva and hair samples would become valid materials for
workplace drug testing in Iowa under a rule being considered
by the Iowa Department of Public Health and pushed by some
Supporters - including both businesses and labor unions - say
saliva tests are less intrusive, take less time and are less
susceptible to tampering than tests done with urine or blood.
The change could spur more Iowa companies to test their
workers for drugs because a saliva test can be done for about
one-third the price of a urine test, according to some
"The less expensive and more palatable testing would be, the
more agreeable both sides - the management and those who are
going to be tested - will be in deciding to implement drug
testing," said Phil Rasch of the Iowa Association of Business
A 1998 state law authorized random drug testing of Iowa
workers for alcohol and other drugs. However, a rule by the
Department of Public Health limited testing to breath, urine
and blood samples.
"When the rules were written, the rules narrowed our
legislation," said Sen. Neal Schuerer, an Amana Republican.
"Bureaucracy was usurping the authority of the Legislature.
There should be no question about a saliva test."
Iowa is one of only six states that currently do not allow the
use of saliva for drug testing, even though the federal Food
and Drug Administration approved saliva testing in 1998.
Lawmakers on the Administrative Rules Review Committee on
Tuesday asked for the adoption of an emergency rule to allow
for the testing of saliva and hair. They said they hope the
rule will be adopted by September.
"This would certainly prove to the benefit of an employee,
simply because of the intrusive nature of the lab test now,"
said Sen. Paul McKinley, a Chariton Republican.
Dean Austin, chief of the state's Bureau of Substance Abuse
Licensure and Support Services, said in the past, testing a
person's saliva hasn't been as accurate for detecting the use
However, new technology has made saliva testing just as
reliable, said Ken Kunsman, director of marketing and
substance abuse testing for OraSure Technologies Inc. of
Kunsman said saliva is considered more of a "real-time test"
because it shows the presence of drugs in a person within 20
minutes of use, and up to 48 hours afterward. Urine takes
longer to show the presence of drugs - eight to 16 hours - but
lasts for up to 72 hours.
"We believe that would be more accurate to actually tell
whether a person's using on the job, rather than just a
recreational user," said Al Skinner, a policy committee member
of the United Steelworkers of America Local 310, which has
pushed for the change.
Kinze Manufacturing in Williamsburg, which employs 500 people
and manufactures farm equipment, also is in favor of the
change. The company has explored using hair samples to test
"Anything we can do to make testing easier, more practical,
more cost-effective - we're open to those kinds of
discussions," said Ned Miller, the company's human resources
But the Iowa Federation of Labor, which opposed workplace drug
testing when it became law in 1998, said drug tests are simply
not credible for measuring a worker's level of impairment.
"If people are impaired, we ought to get them off the job,"
said IFL President Mark Smith. "We go wild about someone who
smoked one marijuana cigarette three weeks ago. If I'm a
parent and was up all night long with a sick kid, I am
probably impaired, but I can pass the drug test with flying