Baby Soap Leads To False-Positive Newborn Marijuana Test Results and False Accusations

Most residents never imagine it could happen to them: they are accused of child abuse. Unfortunately, there is often a misguided assumption that all those accused of abuse are guilty, because no one who provided proper care for their children would ever arose suspicion of mistreatment. Reality is much different. There are countless reasons why one might be wrongly accused of hurting a child. In some cases those children are actually taken out of the home and families are forced to engage in legal battles for reunification.

The false alarms take many forms, with mistakes rooted in the most unlikely places.

Soap & Marijuana
For example, last week MSNBC shared the details of a new study which found that a range of soaps used to wash babies shortly after birth may unintentionally result in false positive readings on drug screening tests. The soaps themselves do not have any adverse effect on the newborns, and so the safety of the product is not at issue. Instead, the concern is the effect that the false positive has on accusations of marijuana exposure directed at the mother.

The testing itself is done is usually done on newborns whose mothers are deemed “high risk,” meaning that there may already be presumptions against these families which the false test results just exacerbate. It is not uncommon for social service departments to get involved following the test results. If allegations of abuse are made, an unsuspecting mother might be forced to engage in legal wrangling in order to prove her innocence and get her child back.

The Research
The findings were made by a group of researchers at a North Carolina hospital and published in this month’s issues of the journal Clinical Biochemistry. The study itself was undertaken after nurses at a nearby hospital reported a mysterious increase in newborns testing positive for marijuana. Fortunately, the medical professionals realized that the test results seemed out of place; they guessed that another explanation was likely
The researchers examined urine samples from infants. They looked at samples which contained small, even minute, traces of five leading infant soaps–Johnson & Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Wash, J&J Bedtime Bath, CVS Night-Time Baby Bath, Aveeno Soothing Relief Creamy Wash, and Aveeno Wash Shampoo. They discovered that the soap in the urine sample translated into positive readings for the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Correcting the Problem
The researchers noted that the study is confirmation that nurses need to consider alternatives to ensure mothers are not falsely accused of drug use. If a drug test comes back positive at a hospital that is usually end of the analysis. The results are not sent to a laboratory for confirmation. That makes it even more important for hospital tests to be accurate. Researchers are not exactly sure why the soap causes the false reading in the traditional screening test. However, more sensitive tests are available which return accurate results without the soap-use distortion.

Legal Help
Hopefully the details of this study will spread and healthcare providers will make accommodations to prevent false accusations. In any event, the Orange County juvenile dependency attorney at the Johnson Criminal Law Group appreciates that this is yet another example of how parents can face wrongful abuse accusations. If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to reach out to legal professionals to ensure your rights are protected