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Trace Metals Unit - Environmental Lead Testing

Background Information on Environmental Lead Testing

Eradicating childhood lead poisoning includes eliminating lead hazards where young children play and live; this includes both the interior and exterior environment with special attention given to painted surfaces, dust, soil and water.  When investigating the child's home environment the goal is to determine the possible sources of lead exposure and the practical means for reducing and eliminating these sources.  Lead-based paint is an area of concern and a principal medium for lead contamination and exposure.  Likewise, soil contaminated with lead from petroleum additives or from the leaching of exterior paint (near drip lines, etc.) may be tracked into homes. Like dust, it collects on hands, toys, and food and is ingested. Concentrations of lead in paint, dust, and soil must be determined if a comprehensive approach to the problem of lead ingestion from housing sources is to be established.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Laboratories (ID 102247), Trace Metals Unit is accredited through the American Industrial Hygiene  Association Laboratory Accreditation Program, LLC (AIHA-LAP, LLC) in the Environmental Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELLAP) for dust wipe and soil analysis as documented by the Scope of Accreditation Certificate and associated Scope.  The ELLAP is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as meeting the requirements of the EPA National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program (NLLAP). Through this accreditation the Trace Metals Unit is an EPA recognized testing laboratory.

Principles Of The Test

Paint chips are analyzed in the field using a handheld x-ray fluorescence (XRF) instrument. The laboratory analyzes dust wipes and soils for evidence of lead content using inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES).  Once the samples have been assessed and accessioned, they are acid digested using a hot block, brought up to volume, and analyzed on the ICP-AES.  ICP-AES analysis involves automatically pumping samples to the instrument nebulizer, which atomizes them into a mist-like cloud.  This mist, along with argon gas, is carried into the argon plasma so that the outer-shell electrons of the elements in the sample can become thermally excited.  As the sample passes through the plasma the excited electrons relax and return to their ground state and emit photons of light with energy characteristic of an element.  Because the sample contains a mixture of elements, a spectrum of light wavelengths is emitted at the same time the photons of light are emitted.  Just as rain breaks sunlight into a rainbow, the spectrometer uses a grating to disperse the light thereby separating the particular element emissions and then directing each to a charge coupled device (CCD) array detector. The more intense this light is, the more concentrated the element.  The instrument's data handling system quantifies and converts the electronic signal from the CCD array detector into concentrations.   

Sampling Instructions, Forms and Rejection Criteria:

Dust Wipe and Soil Sampling for Lead Procedure

Environmental Lead Test Request Form With Chain of Custody DHHS-0558

Order Supplies:

To order environmental lead specimen collection kits (unit number 7A), complete the Requisition for Clinical Specimen Containers (DHHS-0568)

Orders may be submitted by mail, fax (517-335-9039) or by phone (517-335-9040)

Contact Us:

Comments or questions regarding submitted specimens, ETOR, or to request reprints of results contact the DASH Unit at 517-335-8059.
Matthew Bashore, Data and Specimen Handling Unit (DASH) Supervisor

Comments or questions regarding test results or testing methods 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:

MDHHS AIHA-LAP, LCC Certificate; Lab ID - 102247

Lead Hazard Remediation Program & Childhood Lead Poisoning Preventation

CDC's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program