Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dress Code

Although I'm sure most of the men in the television audience would like to believe that a beautiful woman such as Calleigh Duquesne—the blonde from rural Louisiana, now a CSI—would be running around crime scenes in high heel boots, low-cut knit tops and white pants, all the while dabbing blood swabs and pulling out bullet casings, you’ve got your fix.

And it isn’t any different over in Vegas with Catherine, or in New York with Stella Bonasara and her long, curly hair and décolleté peeking out of some very revealing tops while she looks quite serious, over the new corpse-of-the-week. TV Guide ran promos of all these shows this past year and the glamour shots were very sexy indeed. But if you’re a TV crime drama producer and you need to draw an audience and keep them coming back, gorgeous women in precarious spots and dangerous situations is the way to do it.

But, you, Dear Reader, know that crime scenes often contain hazardous chemicals; that biological contaminants can pose a critical threat to the health of police officers or crime scene technicians. Evidence that contains bodily fluids or stains, tissue or skin, toxic chemicals or other elements must be properly marked as biohazards. The term, “biohazard,” is given to all live or once living organic material that can cause morbidity or mortality in man.

Words such as bacterial agents, fungal agents, and parasitic agents come to mind; and let’s not forget viruses. Not only that, but the substances that are used to process crime scenes, such as blood reagents or latent fingerprint development chemicals can require face, mouth or eye protection. Often the chemicals are so toxic it’s like fumigating your house for bugs and vermin—everyone must leave until it processes, or at least until it is ventilated out of the air.

Lab people too, are especially careful. A little site from the CDC states: "Primary hazards to personnel working with these agents relate to accidental percutaneous or mucous membrane exposures, or ingestion of infectious materials. Extreme caution should be taken with contaminated needles or sharp instruments. Even though organisms routinely manipulated at Biosafety Level 2 are not known to be transmissible by the aerosol route, procedures with aerosol or high splash potential that may increase the risk of such personnel exposure must be conducted in primary containment equipment. . ."

Items for safety equipment may include items for personal protection, such as gloves, coats, gowns, shoe covers, boots, respirators, splash shields, safety glasses or goggles.

Kind of adds a new light to breaching a crime scene when you’re actually dressed for dinner out. I’m looking at a catalog from Armor Forensic (I really like their motto: Discover the Truth), and it has pictures of guys dressed in Tyvek (you know, the stuff that’s used for home insulation), disposable shoe booties—and even high-top versions—and, hey, they even sell a “Spit Net.” I guess that’s for when law enforcement have to transport somebody that intends to spew on anyone who touches them.

(They won’t show that on TV!)


Joan Price said...

I am so glad you brought up this topic! I love CSI, but it bugs me that the women (gorgeous, every one) all wear low-cut bodices and high heels for their work in the muck and blood.

They say they're protecting the crime scene evidence with their latex gloves, but wouldn't their long hair hanging over every corpse or drop of blood compromise the evidence? Crazy! Thanks for bringing this up!

Joan Price
Author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty (

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