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Childhood Lead Poisoning

The Childhood Lead Poisoning Laboratory analyzes children’s blood specimens for lead for screening (capillary) and diagnostic (venous) purposes. The laboratory also analyzes environmental samples for lead content including water, air, paint chips, dust wipes, toys and other potential sources of exposure. Most specimens are submitted by county health departments, as part of public health investigations of lead poisoning.

The laboratory is CLIA certified (33D0654341) for clinical testing and holds a NYSDOH Clinical Laboratory Permit (PFI 1067) in the category Toxicology Blood Lead – Comprehensive.  The laboratory is fully certified under NELAP standards for environmental testing by both the NYSDOH (Lab #10762) and by the State of Florida (E37911).

Lead Analysis/tests routinely performed:

  • Blood: performed as a diagnostic test on venous blood, or as a screening test on capillary blood specimens, using Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometry.
  • Soil: performed for county health units as a supporting test to identify potential sources of lead exposure in confirmed lead poisoning cases.
  • Paint: performed on paint chips for county health units as a supporting test to identify potential sources of lead exposure in confirmed lead poisoning cases. The method involves digesting paint chips in strong acid and measuring lead by Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrometry.
  • Dust: performed on dust wipes for county health units as a supporting test to identify potential sources of lead exposure in confirmed lead poisoning cases. The method involves digesting dust wipes in strong acid and measuring lead by Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrometry.

Academic Programs: Senior laboratory scientists hold academic appointments in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences of the University at Albany’s School of Public Health.  The laboratory hosts both doctoral (PhD) and masters (MS, MPH) students working toward degrees awarded by the University at Albany in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences (EHS). Staff members co-teach several graduate courses (core and electives) that are required for completion of the degree. They include EHS 525 Environmental Chemical Analysis, EHS 530 Principles of Environmental Chemistry, EHS 530 Principles of Toxicology, and EHS 621 Chromatographic Methods. Opportunities for high school students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, chemist aides, and laboratory technicians are available, along with access to state-of-the-art instrumentation.

Examples of PhD theses completed in this laboratory include:

  • Atomization, Determination and Distribution of Lead in Bone by Electrothermal Atomic Absorption Spectrometry. Yan Yan Zong, PhD 1996
  • A Study of the Lead Deposition in the Tibia of Dosed Goats: Locational Distribution and Validation of Bone Lead Measurements by Analytical Atomic Spectrometry. Katherine Hetter, MS 2006
  • Biomonitoring for Exposure to Trace Elements in utero: Analysis of the Human Placenta. Pamela Kruger, PhD 2009
  • Trace Element Analysis of Environmental and Clinical Materials using Novel Instrumentation Based on X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry: New Capabilities for Public Health Laboratories. Kathryn McIntosh, PhD, 2012

In addition to EHS programs, the laboratory hosts students completing rotations for the Wadsworth Masters of Laboratory Sciences (MLS) degree. MLS students take EHS 525 Environmental Chemical Analysis. Laboratory rotations include hands-on experience with modern analytical instrumentation including inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), Electrothermal Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (ETAAS) and X-ray Fluorescence spectrometry (XRF).

Current research focus: The lead poisoning laboratory is now integrated into a larger research program that is focused on Biomonitoring and trace element analysis of both clinical and environmental samples. Please see the Exposome and Nuclear Chemistry Research Areas.

Childhood Lead Poisoning

  • Parsons PJ, Slavin W. A Rapid Zeeman Graphite-Furnace Atomic-Absorption Spectrometric Method for the Determination of Lead in Blood. Spectrochimica Acta Part B-Atomic Spectrometry. 1993;(48):925-939.
  • Pubmed Web Address

  • Parsons PJ, Reilly AA, EsernioJenssen D. Screening children exposed to lead: An assessment of the capillary blood lead fingerstick test. Clinical Chemistry. 1997;(43):302=311.
  • Pubmed Web Address

  • Parsons PJ, Zhou Y, Palmer CD, Brockman P, Aldous KM. Atomization and vaporization of lead from a blood matrix using rhodium-coated tungsten filaments with pseudo-simultaneous electrothermal atomic absorption and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometric measurements. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry. 2003;(18):4-10.
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  • Palmer CD, Lewis Jr. ME, Geraghty C, Barbosa Jr. F, Parsons PJ. Determination of lead, cadmium and mercury in blood for assessment of environmental exposure: a comparison between inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry and atomic absorption spectrometry. Spectrochimica Acta Part B-Atomic Spectrometry. 2006;(61):980-990.
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  • Steuerwald AJ, Blaisdell FS, Geraghty CM, Parsons PJ. Regional distribution and accumulation of lead in caprine brain tissues following a long-term oral dosing regimen. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2014;77(12):663-678.
  • Pubmed Web Address

  • Guimaraes D, Cleaver TM, Martin SF, Parsons PJ. Radioisotope-based XRF instrumentation for determination of lead in paint: an assessment of the current accuracy and reliability of portable analyzers used in New York State. Analytical Methods. 2015;(7):366-374.
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