BRIAN WELS: brian-wels@uiowa.edu

More than 8,000 Iowa children were tested for lead exposure this year.

The Hygienic Laboratory is the central testing laboratory for Iowa Department of Public Health’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. As such, the Blood Lead section tests for the presence of lead in humans, and is the state’s reference laboratory for confirmation of all capillary lead screening results.

The primary instrument used to screen blood specimens is a graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometer. The Hygienic Laboratory also has the capability of using more sensitive multi-elemental techniques such as inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry to detect low levels of lead and other potentially toxic metals such as cadmium, arsenic and mercury from the same blood specimen. Results from these instruments are analyzed by laboratory scientists to confirm the level of lead from venous blood specimens.

Recent technological advancements in point-of-care testing allows health care providers to test blood for levels of lead. However, because of the significant public health threat from lead poisoning, the Hygienic Laboratory maintains the capability to provide both screening and confirmatory testing for IDPH.

Other Units in Disease Control

The Office of the Director consists of 10 key functional units that enable the State Hygienic Laboratory to achieve its statutory charge set forth in the Iowa Administrative Code.

The primary mission of the Disease Control Division is to test human specimens, food and water for diseases of public health significance to protect the citizens of Iowa.

The Environmental Health Division monitors drinking water, wastewater, air, soil and food for contaminants of potential environmental and public health concern.

The Division of Administration and Finance is responsible for the management of the business practices, all Hygienic Laboratory facilities, and pre/post testing support.