Nitrite adulteration of workplace urine drug-testing specimens. I. Sources and associated concentrations of nitrite in urine and distinction between natural sources and adulteration

J Anal Toxicol. 1998 Mar-Apr;22(2):89-95. doi: 10.1093/jat/22.2.89.


The active ingredient in the commercial workplace urine drug-testing adulterant, Klear, was previously determined to be nitrite ion. Nitrite adulteration compromises the confirmation of some drugs, notably the marijuana metabolite. A previously reported bisulfite step overcomes some nitrite adulteration, but it cannot do so in every case, which leaves the laboratory to report the specimen as not suitable for testing. Unlike many other adulterants, nitrite is found in normal urine at low concentrations. In order to defend a report of nitrite adulteration, it is necessary to provide evidence that the amount of nitrite in a workplace urine specimen could not arise by normal means. The objectives of this study were to identify all sources of nitrite in urine and the range of concentrations associated with these sources and to determine if nitrite adulteration can be supported based upon a quantitative result. The scientific literature was reviewed for internal and external sources of nitrite and their concentration ranges and are reported. The following specimens were obtained and nitrite concentrations measured by a spectrophotometric method: clinical specimens nitrite positive by test strip (< 15 micrograms/mL); specimens culture positive for nitrate-reducing microorganisms (< 36 micrograms/mL); specimens from patients on medications that may metabolize to nitrite (< 6 micrograms/mL); and drug-test specimens, both negative (< 130 micrograms/mL) and others that appeared to be adulterated with nitrite (range 1910-12,200 micrograms/mL, mean 5910). The literature and the nitrite measurements of this study indicate a substantial difference between concentrations from natural sources compared with adulteration. A quantitative measurement of nitrite by a well-structured assay can provide scientifically valid and forensically defensible proof of adulteration with a nitrite-containing substance.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Contamination*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Environmental Pollutants*
  • Humans
  • Nitrites / urine*
  • Occupational Health Services
  • Occupations
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Workplace


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Nitrites
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic