House Examines Drug Test Evasion Products

The House Energy and Commerce committee examines whether or not to ban products that supposedly help people beat workplace drug screenings. Though some states have laws against falsifying drug tests, there is no federal law.

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Workplace drug testing is widespread. Millions of Americans are tested each year to find out if they're using drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. But some companies are selling products that claim to help drug users beat the tests. These products go by names such as Never Fail Urine Cleaner, Clear Choice Quick Flush and the Whizzinator. Today, a congressional panel looked into whether these products should be banned. NPR's Nell Boyce has more.

NELL BOYCE reporting:

Investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee spent a lot of time today hearing about some unusual devices.

Ms. SUSAN REED (State Prosecutor, San Antonio, Texas): If you don't know what the Whizzinator is, it is a device that is something like a jock strap that comes with a fake penis attached to it. And it comes in all different sizes and colors.

BOYCE: That's Susan Reed, a state prosecutor in San Antonio, Texas. She says her office has caught people on probation using the Whizzinator to substitute clean synthetic urine for their own. Texas has a law against falsifying drug tests, like 13 other states, but there's no federal law, so Reed couldn't take action against the device's out-of-state manufacturer. The Whizzinator may seem amusing, but Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan says that cheating on drug tests isn't funny.

Representative BART STUPAK (Democrat, Michigan): The laughs quickly end when one considers that such a product could be used by persons operating nuclear power plants, driving a thousand-foot supertankers into ports or a bus driver bringing our children to school.

BOYCE: A panel of experts described a wide range of products sold online and in stores, from drinks that dilute the urine to chemical additives that mask the presence of drugs. Robert Stevenson works on drug testing for the Department of Health and Human Services. He says testing labs have a hard time detecting these products because they're constantly being reformulated.

Mr. ROBERT STEVENSON (Department of Health and Human Services): Our concern is that we're in a never-ending cat-and-mouse chase with those who wish to beat the drug test.

BOYCE: Congressional investigators did subpoena the heads of three different companies that make products to help people evade drug tests. Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield of Kentucky first questioned Dennis Catalano. His company, Puck Technology, makes the Whizzinator.

Representative ED WHITFIELD (Republican, Kentucky): What is the intended use of your company's products, and does your company market these products for the purpose of subverting lawful drug-testing programs?

Mr. DENNIS CATALANO (Puck Technology): On the advice of my attorney, I respectfully decline to answer and invoke my Fifth Amendment right.

BOYCE: Two other company heads also declined to answer questions. That's no likely to satisfy lawmakers. They said federal legislation could go forward on this issue by the end of the year. Nell Boyce, NPR News.

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