Kenneth Curtis makes good money pissing his days away.

Curtis sells his urine over the Internet to people who are skittish about
using their own for workplace drug tests.

Privacy Protection Services guarantees that his pee will pass even the
strictest urinalysis exams. For $69 plus shipping costs, customers get 5.5
ounces of urine in a small, self-heating pouch that can be strapped onto
the test-taker's body for easy concealment.

And in an era where employees routinely pee into paper cups, Curtis says he
has struck liquid gold. Over the past six years, he has sold over 100,000
of his "urine test substitution kits" and spawned many online competitors.

The former pipefitter from South Carolina started his business after being
forced to take a drug test at each new construction site he was sent to, a
practice he found "humiliating and degrading."

In the beginning, he donated his urine to nervous buddies as a form of protest.

"But pretty soon people were calling me up in the middle of the night,"
said Curtis, 42. "I found it was a viable business venture."

By chugging fruit juice, tea and coffee, Curtis says he produces enough
urine to make 50 kits a day; he keeps another 500 gallons of his liquid
waste stored in industrial freezers.

"I don't waste a drop of my assets," he said.

But peeing for a living isn't easy, he insisted. Each sample must be
analyzed at a private laboratory to ensure it's clear of substances that
could trigger a false-positive result, then sealed and packaged.

He also labors in a hostile work environment; his product was outlawed in
his home state after it pissed off a local lawmaker. In 1999, South
Carolina changed its laws to make it illegal for a person to "sell, give
away, distribute or market urine ... with intent to defraud a drug or
alcohol screening test" or to adulterate a urine sample in any other way to
foil a drug test.

The maximum penalty for a first-time offender is a $5,000 fine and three
years in prison.

"This is real important from a safety perspective," said Republican State
Sen. David Thomas, who sponsored the bill. "Business owners think
everything is safe when, in fact, they aren't making their products in a
drug-free environment."

Curtis was arrested in April after he sold urine to an undercover cop at a
South Carolina gas station and a SWAT team raided his home, finding 20
gallons of urine in milk jugs and sealed containers. He was charged with
two counts of violating the 1999 law and will face a hefty fine and prison
sentence if convicted.

Curtis has fought the law in court, and while his attempts to reverse the
legislation have failed, the South Carolina Supreme Court did rule that a
portion of the legal code is unconstitutional because it presumes the guilt
of people who sell urine along with information on cheating drug tests.

South Carolina isn't the only state that has laws against hoodwinking
urinalysis tests; a handful of others, including Nebraska, have similar

To avoid problems, urine sellers insist their business is about privacy,
not narcotics.

"It's nobody's business what you do on your own time, as long as you
perform your job," said Stephanie Bell, a co-founder of Mississippi-based

Bell's company got started after a failed drug test. Her fiance erroneously
failed a drug test at a construction gig and was escorted off the site by
security guards. A second analysis of the sample showed it was clean; but
Bell, her fiance and another couple forged ahead with the business. Today,
they sell an average of 500 urine kits -- which are similar to Curtis' in
look and price -- a month, she said.

Some of her clients buy urine in order to hide health conditions -- such as
diabetes or pregnancy -- in order to get insurance or jobs.

"No employers want to hire a woman who's going to be taking four months off
for maternity leave," she said.

One of her customers is a diabetic smoker who would get kicked off a kidney
donation list if nicotine was found in his urine, she added.

Privacy advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union argue that
workplace drug screening is an unproven method for stopping substance abuse
and that it treads on a fundamental right: the right to be left alone.

"We are opposed to drug testing unless there's some job-related need for
it, such as for police officers who are supposed to enforce laws that
criminalize drug possession," said Donna Lieberman, the Interim Executive
Director of the NYCLU. "We oppose testing of private-sector employees
because it's a violation of privacy."

But businesses are panicked by government estimates that drug and alcohol
addiction costs the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Worksite screening has jumped 277 percent since 1987, despite evidence
suggesting that 30 percent of urinalysis exams give false positive results,
an ACLU report states.

But while requests for workers and job applicants to pee on demand have
increased, so have attempts to foil the system.

Many websites sell "herbal cleansers," synthetic urine or additives
designed to foil screening, but most are gimmicks, said Steve Ferris, vice
president of Advanced Workplace Strategies Incorporated, a California-based
company that administers drug and alcohol tests.

"People do all kinds of things to avoid getting tested," Ferris said. Some
borrow urine from friends and microwave it in a convenience store on their
way to work. Others dilute their samples with water or Gatorade, or spike
the sample with commercial products that claim to destroy unwanted toxins.
In one case, a job applicant had another person's pee injected directly
into his bladder.

Urinalysis labs have managed to stay ahead of the game by developing
sophisticated tests to catch cheats, he said.

"If adulterants are detected, it's categorized as a 'refusal to test,'
which is the same as a positive according to federal guidelines," he said.
"Meaning that you run the risk losing your job if you tamper with the test."

But devices such as Curtis' strap-on piss pouch that meet strict sample
temperature requirements (between 90 and 100 degrees) may successfully
trump the system, he acknowledged.

"Unless you force people to strip, they can't be detected," he said.

But one thing is clear: Get caught with a urine pouch, and you're in deep

Pubdate: Mon, 03 Sep 2001
Source: Wired News (US Web)
Copyright: 2001 Wired Digital Inc.
Author: Julia Scheeres