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Trace Metals Unit - Biomonitoring Testing

Trace Metals testing

Information on Biomonitoring Testing

The Division of Laboratory Sciences at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coordinates the National Biomonitoring Program (NBP) which offers an assessment of nutritional status and the exposure of the U.S. population to environmental chemicals and toxic substances.  Worldwide, biomonitoring is recognized as a standard for assessing people's exposure to toxic substances and for responding to serious environmental public health issues.

The Trace Metals Unit tests for environmental metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic and manganese which are all toxic to the body at certain concentrations.  These metals are not essential or normal constituents of the body, but will always be present due to their existence in our environment.  Exposure to such metals occurs through inhalation, ingestion, or absorption which leads to accumulation of these metals in the body. 

Principles Of The Test

The Trace Metals Unit performs metal analysis on urine, blood, hair, and tissue specimens using  inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).   Once the specimens have been assessed and accessioned, they are digested or treated with diluent and placed on the ICP-MS.  From there the specimens are automatically pumped to the instrument nebulizer, which atomizes the solution into radio frequency plasma, where ionization takes place.  Next, a vacuum interface pulls the ions through a series of cones and a focusing lens, where the positively charged ions enter the quadrupole and are separated by their mass-to-charge ratio.  These ions are detected by an electron multiplier, quantified, and processed by the instrument's data handling system. 

Previous Biomonitoring Projects:

  • Michigan State University - Low Blood Levels Associated with Clinically Diagnosed Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Mediated by Weak Cognitive Control
  • University of Texas - Epidemiological Research on Autism in Jamaica-Phase II
  • Low Metals Exposure, Measures of Male Infertility and Genes - analyzed whole blood and urine specimens for lead, cadmium, selenium manganese, chromium, copper, molybdenum and zinc.
  • ATSDR Great Lakes Research Initiative (GLRI) - "Biomonitoring of Persistent Toxic Substances in Michigan Urban Fisheaters; Trace Metals analyzed for lead, manganese, and mercury in whole blood; and arsenic, cadmium, and mercury in urine.
  • University of Michigan - Fetal Lead Exposure, Risks and Intervention Strategies (FLERIS): Fetal Origins of Neurobehavior, Lead and Cholesterol Metabolism Interactions
  • University of Michigan -  Lead  and Cadmium Exposure in Mice
  • University of Michigan - Health Effects of Cadmium Exposure in Thailand
  • University of Michigan - Prenatal Lead Exposure, Early Child Growth and Sexual Maturation

Specimen Collection Instructions, Forms and Rejection Criteria:

Contact the laboraotory for more information.

Contact Us:

Comments or questions regarding test results, methods or capabilities contact the Trace Metals Unit
Keri Fisher, Analytical Chemistry Section Manager
Phone: 517-335-9489 


Matt Geiger, Chemistry and Toxicology Division Director
Phone: 517-335-8344 

Related Information:

CDC's National Biomonitoring Program

National Biomonitoring Program's Environmental Chemicals

MDHHS Analytical Chemistry Section

MDHHS Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the protection of Human Research Subjects - Abbreviated Version - DCH 1277A