Portable Analyzer for On-site Monitoring of Worker Exposure to Toxic Metals

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Large numbers of industrial workers are regularly exposed to toxic heavy metals like cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), and mercury (Hg), which are known to induce various diseases that are detrimental to human health. In order to monitor workers for multiple toxic metal exposures and to ensure that these exposures are below a threshold for inducing permanent damage to various organ systems, a portable analyzer for real-time, onsite, non-invasive monitoring of workers for toxic metal exposure will be developed using a novel approach developed by our research group at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The analyzer will be based on the built-in preconcentration of cadmium, lead, and mercury present in urine by the highly efficient sorbent materials, created at PNNL, prior to their voltammetric quantitation. Urine is universally recognized as one of the best non-invasive matrix to assess both acute and ongoing exposures to a broad range of many toxic metals. The sorbent materials are the marriage of self-assembled functionalization and extremely high surface area silia and are designed to be highly specific for the metal ions even in 1) complex urine matrix, 2) urine with elevated level of proteins resulting from renal diseases, and 3) urine with elevated level of metal-chelates resulting from chelation administration. Thus our sensors do not require toxic mercury for metal ion preconcentration unlike conventional electrochemical sensors. Delivery of samples and reagents will be based on programmable sequential injection with turbulent flow-onto a design that minimizes the sensor fouling caused by proteins. The analyzer will reduce the time and costs of monitoring worker exposure and clinical diagnosis. It represents the next-generation of metal ion analyzer because of its affordability, low power consumption, portability, full automation, and easy operation, which are better than the traditional analytical methods like AAS and ICP-MS. This project directly responds to PA-04-030 of NIOSH/R21 for the development of research tools and approaches for exposure assessment. The portable analyzer will enable (1) better identification of at-risk workers and development of appropriate control and intervention strategies, (2) understanding of exposure-response relationships, and (3) improvement of baseline data for a standard setting and risk assessment, all of which have been identified as important by the Exposure Assessment Methods (EAM) team commissioned by NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA). Once successful, the portable analyzer can be easily extended to the analysis of other toxic metal ions such as chromium, arsenic, lanthanides, and actinides by using combination of other sorbent materials that have already been created to be specific for the sorption of such analytes. Ultimately, the sensor for metal ions will be combined with the sensor for creatinine so that the exposure monitoring can be performed with "spot" urine instead of 24-hr urine.
Effective start/end date9/1/068/31/09


  • National Institutes of Health


  • Medicine(all)


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