Radiographic presentation of artifactual dyed hair on lateral cephalograms, chemical processing, and forensic application: Novel case report

John K. Brooks (Lead / Corresponding author), Ademir Franco, Richard B. Thompson, Daniel E. Biederman, Vandana Kumar, Sarah L. J. Michel, Jordan D. Pritts, Christopher J. Frederickson, Nasir Bashirelahi, Jeffery B. Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Forensic assessment employs an array of methods to identify human remains. Radiologic examinations with panoramic radiographs, computed tomography scans, Waters view, and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging may offer evidentiary clues in challenging cases, such as mass disasters. In these cases, alternative forensic tools are used to narrow lists of target victims using their biological features. This study aims to I) report on the unusual radiographic aspect of chemicals used for hair dyeing, and II) discuss the potential forensic application of this finding for human identification. The case depicts an asymptomatic 14-years-old female who presented for orthodontic therapy. During radiographic examination on a lateral cephalogram, numerous thin radiopaque streaks were visible, extending to the posterior neck between the occipital region of the skull base and vertebra C6. Clinical investigations revealed that these were artifactual hair images (possibly documented for the first time in the scientific literature). Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) analysis of the patient's scalp hair was performed for 10 heavy metals, including zinc, copper, iron, chromium, nickel, cadmium, tin, lead, antimony, and bismuth. Eight of these metals were detected at normal levels, ranging from 160 parts per million (ppm) for zinc to less than 1 ppm for nickel, cadmium, tin, lead, and antimony. Conversely, slightly elevated levels of chromium at 0.41 ppm and bismuth at 0.025 ppm were found in the hair sample. The distinctive radiographic presentation of artifactual hair images combined with the chemical properties of hair exposed to dye products may provide useful traces for human identification, especially in mass disasters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1274-1279
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number3
Early online date13 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • dentistry
  • hair
  • hair dye
  • heavy metals
  • human identification
  • lateral cephalogram
  • orthodontic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Genetics


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