AIMS: Analysis of ethyl glucuronide (EtG), a minor metabolite of ethanol, is a valid tool for the assessment of social and chronic excessive alcohol consumption. Standardized analysis of EtG is usually done in head hair. As head hair cannot always be provided, alternative hair matrices become more and more interesting. Therefore, a study was performed that compared the intra-individual EtG concentrations in scalp hair and non-head hair (chest, arm, leg and axillary hair).
METHODS: Hair samples were collected from 68 subjects undergoing an expert assessment for fitness to drive. Aqueous extracts of the hair matrix were cleaned by solid-phase extraction, using an Oasis MAX column. EtG was first derivatized with perfluoropentanoic anhydride and then quantified by GC-MS/MS in negative chemical ionization mode, using EtG-d5 as internal standard.
RESULTS: For categorizing drinking behaviour, the two EtG cut-off values recommended by the Society of Hair Testing were applied for all different hair types. For chest, arm and leg hair, correct classification ratios were >83%. This corresponds to sensitivity values >78% and specificities >75%. Such values indicate together with ϕ coefficients (rϕ) > 0.7 a high correlation of the categorization of the drinking behaviour based on these body hair EtG concentrations compared with the indexing based on scalp hair EtG-values. However, it must be taken into consideration that the time frame represented by non-head hair may extend way back.
CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that chest, arm and leg hair can be a valid alternative to assess the drinking behaviour of a subject if head hair is not available; whereas axillary hair is not suitable as alternative matrix.