Laboratory Capacity

Diagnostics and Chemical Markers of Exposure

The Emergency Response Branch develops and performs unique laboratory tests to assess chemical exposure in humans during a public health emergency or terrorist event. After an exposure occurs, the laboratory works to improve the detection of chemical exposures by identifying the chemical used, measuring levels of exposure in humans, and preventing further exposure. By measuring substances or their biomarkers in human specimens, such as urine, blood, or serum, public health officials and scientists may be able to identify nutrition deficiencies and unusual or potentially harmful exposures that may cause disease or increase disease risk.

Examples of available laboratory tests for clinical use are shown in the tables below. They list the most common names for these chemicals, and their Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Numbers. Many of the chemicals, however, go by alternative names. To ensure each is the intended chemical, please visit the National Library of Medicine ChemID database websiteexternal icon and enter the chemical’s CAS Number. The page displayed after this search will include the chemical’s structure, and alternative names.

The common use of all methods listed in the tables is for confirming human exposure, with the exception of the industrial chemicals chlorine and tricresylphosphate.

CDC’s laboratory methods are intended to evaluate population exposures and to support states in situations considered a public health concern. Please see the “Methods Access” tab below for additional information regarding these methods, and contact DLSLab@cdc.gov for answers to your questions about them.

Table of laboratory methods panels Industrial Chemicals
Chemical Specimen Type Peer-Reviewed References
Chlorine

CAS No. 7782-50-5

Blood
Hydrazine

CAS No. 302-01-2

Urine
Monofluoroacetate
CAS No. 144-49-0
Monochloroacetate
CAS No. 79-11-8
Urine
Tetramine
CAS No. 80-12-6
Urine
Tricresylphosphate
CAS No. 1330-78-5
Blood
Table of laboratory methods panels Natural Toxins
Chemical Specimen Type Peer-Reviewed References
Abrin
CAS No. 526-31-8
Urine and Blood
Amanitin
CAS No. 23109-05-9
Urine
Gonyautoxins 1-4
CAS No. 60508-89-6
Urine
Hypoglycin A
CAS No. 156-56-9
MCPG
CAS No. N/A
Urine and Blood
Hypoglycin A
CAS No. 156-56-9
MCPG
CAS No. N/A
Fruit
Ricin
CAS No. 524-40-3
Urine and Blood
Saxitoxin
CAS No. 35523-89-8
Neosaxitoxin
CAS No. 64296-20-4
Urine and Blood
Tetrodotoxin
CAS No. 4368-28-9
Urine
Table of laboratory methods panels Nerve Agents
Chemical Specimen Type Peer-Reviewed References
Sarin (GB)
CAS No. 107-44-8
Soman (GD)
CAS No. 96-64-0
Cyclosarin (GF)
CAS No. 96-64-0
Tabun (GA)
CAS No. 77-81-6
Russian VX
CAS No. 159939-87-4
VX
CAS No. 50782-69-9
Urine
Sarin (GB)
CAS No. 107-44-8
Soman (GD)
CAS No. 96-64-0
Cyclosarin (GF)
CAS No. 96-64-0
Tabun (GA)
CAS No. 77-81-6
Russian VX
CAS No. 159939-87-4
VX
CAS No. 50782-69-9
Blood
Table of laboratory methods panels Synthetic Drugs
Chemical Specimen Type Peer-Reviewed References
Fentanyl Blood
Table of laboratory methods panels Vesicants
Chemical Specimen Type Peer-Reviewed References
Lewisite (L1)

CAS No. 541-25-3

Urine
Nitrogen Mustard (HN1 and HN2)

CAS No. 334-22-5

Urine
Sulfur Mustard (HD)

CAS No. 505-60-2

Urine
Sulfur Mustard (HD)

CAS No. 505-60-2

Blood
Table of laboratory methods panels Riot Control Agents
Chemical Specimen Type Peer-Reviewed References
CS

CAS No. 2698-41-1

Urine Buchanan, M.A.; et al. J Occup Environ Hyg. 2017, 9:712-719.
DOI: 10.1080/15459624.2017.1316387external icon

CDC’s laboratory methods are intended to evaluate population exposures and to support states in situations considered a public health concern. CDC does not provide individual health care or assessment unless as part of a broader public health investigation requested by federal or state agencies, such as a health department.

Detecting levels of an environmental chemical in a person’s blood or urine does not necessarily mean the chemical will cause adverse health effects or disease. Advances in analytical methods enable CDC to measure very low levels of environmental chemicals in people, but additional research studies are needed to determine if specific levels cause adverse health effects or disease. Consulting a clinician with a toxicological background to assist with the interpretation of results is recommended.

Samples to be tested should be processed through a state health department laboratory, and should conform to the laboratory’s reporting procedures. These laboratory methods often require that the sample be collected by a particular method or sometimes with particular pre-screened collection devices to minimize external contamination. Following the correct sample collection protocol is necessary for accurate sample measurement. Please contact the laboratory that will be analyzing the sample to learn the sample collection instructions before collecting the samples.

* Contact DLSLab@cdc.gov for more information or questions about these laboratory methods. CDC’s laboratory methods are intended to evaluate population exposures and to support states in situations considered a public health concern. CDC does not provide individual health care or assessment unless as part of a broader public health investigation requested by federal or state agencies, such as a health department.

Detecting levels of an environmental chemical in a person’s blood or urine does not necessarily mean the chemical will cause health effects or disease. Advances in analytical methods enable CDC to measure very low levels of environmental chemicals in people, but research studies of varying levels of exposure are needed to determine if specific levels cause health effects. Consulting a clinician with a toxicological background to assist with the interpretation of results is recommended.

Samples to be tested should be processed through a state health department laboratory, and should conform to the laboratory’s reporting procedures.

Please note: Not all laboratory methods are supported at all times.

Page last reviewed: May 19, 2021