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USDOT revises drug-test rule to prevent misinterpreted results

On May 28, U.S. Department of Transportation issued an interim final rule (IFR) designed to prevent transportation workers who naturally produce creatinine in their urine from being considered drug-test violators.

The rule lowers the amount of creatinine in a urine specimen that governs whether an individual is considered by USDOT to have refused to take a drug test.

"We want to take every precaution to ensure that a transportation employee cannot be charged unfairly with having substituted some other substance for his or her urine specimen," said Ken Edgell, acting director of USDOT's Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy Compliance, in a prepared statement.

Under current rules, a urine specimen with five milligrams or less of creatinine per deciliter of urine is regarded "substituted," based on scientific-literature reviews that suggest people cannot naturally produce urine with lower creatinine amounts. USDOT considers a substituted finding a refusal to take a drug test — a violation equivalent to failing a drug test.

But USDOT has encountered a small number of cases in which individuals might have had legitimate medical or physiological explanations for producing lower-creatinine-level specimens.

Under the IFR, USDOT will consider a specimen dilute if the creatinine concentration is two milligrams ore more per deciliter of urine. Dilute specimens would not cause an employee to be considered a rule violator.

However, employees who provide dilute specimens in the two- to five-milligram-per-deciliter range would have to undergo an unannounced retest under direct observation as a testing-integrity safeguard.

Although the rule is effective immediately, USDOT is accepting public comments until Aug. 26.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/4/2003