Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed an inexpensive electrochemical sensing system that significantly improves the ability to rapidly and accurately detect heavy metals in biological and environmental samples.

The compact biomonitoring device allows for rapid, accurate results equivalent to state-of-the-art mass spectrometry systems from small fluid samples. Its field-portable size makes detecting toxic lead and heavy metals quick, simple, and reliable. (Image courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Using a simple blood sample from a finger prick, the system identifies, in order to eliminate, exposure to toxic metals, such as lead, which pose a significant health concern, especially to children.

The portable analyzer system has been optimized to reliably detect lead and other toxic metals in urine, blood, and saliva as accurately as current state-of-the-art plasma mass spectrometry systems. The device can use either a flow injection system with a mercury-film electrode or a mercury-free system involving the use of functionalized nanomaterials developed at PNNL to provide detection sensitivity at a parts-per-billion level.

  • It delivers reliable measurements within a rapid two-to-five-minute analysis period using a simple blood sample from a finger prick.

  • It provides a fast, simple, and easy method of monitoring toxic metal exposures in high-risk populations, such as industrial workers, children, and people living in polluted areas.

  • It costs up to ten times less than other current state-of-the-art plasma mass spectrometry systems.

  • It provides portability in a system the size of a small suitcase for field work, which is lacking in comparable sensors.

For more information, contact Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Battelle number 15690-E, weblink here.