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The USGS National Wildlife Health Center's Chemistry Laboratory technical staff provides toxicology support for diagnostic cases, including metal analysis (primarily lead), screening for organophosphate and carbamate pesticide exposure, and other toxicants.  The Chemistry Laboratory is also the main conduit for submission of toxicology to external laboratories.

Chemistry Laboratory Capabilities

Toxicology support for diagnostic cases:

  • Analysis of tissues for metals toxicity (i.e., lead, sodium, copper, zinc, cadmium, thallium) by microwave digestion/ Inductively Coupled Plasma - Optical Emissions Spectrometry.
  • Organophosphate/carbamate pesticide exposure testing by use of brain cholinesterase assay.
  • Other toxicant/poison exposure (e.g., strychnine and cyanide analysis by UV/Vis spectrophotometry; aflatoxin analysis in feed/UGI by thin layer chromatography).  
  • Sourcing of appropriate analyses for which in-house capabilities are not present through a network of state veterinary diagnostic laboratories and/or other fee-for-service laboratories.


Chemistry Diagnostic Tests

The following is a reference guide to commonly requested tests.  It is not a full list of testing capabilities of the laboratories. Determination of which test will be run on any given submission will be based on case history, gross findings at necropsy, and the scientific judgment of the case pathologist.

Chemistry Diagnostic Tests
Test Test Method Approx. Turnaround Time
Aflatoxins (outsourced) High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) 2 weeks
Anticoagulant Screen (outsourced) High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) 10-14 weeks
Bio/Algal Toxins (outsourced) ELISA, Immunohistochemistry, HPCL/MS Variable
Chlorinated Pesticides, PCBs (outsourced) Gas Chromatography (GC)/MS 12-15 days
Cholinesterase UV/Vis enzymatic/colorimetric kinetics <10 working days
Ethanol (Alcohol) (outsourced) Gas Chromatography (GC)/MS 10-14 days
GC/MS (outsourced) Gas Chromatography (GC)/MS 10-14 days
Lead, Tissue Inductively Coupled Plasma - Optical Emissions Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) <10 working days
Lead, Bone Inductively Coupled Plasma - Optical Emissions Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) <10 working days
Metals Panel (metals screen) (outsourced) Inductively Coupled Plasma - Optical Emissions Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) <10 days
Mycotoxins (outsourced) HPLC, HPLC/MS, Thin Layer Chromatography, ELISA 14 days
Sodium (outsourced) Inductively Coupled Plasma - Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS) 10-14 days
Strychnine (outsourced) Gas Chromatography (GC)/MS 10-14 days
Zinc Phosphide (outsourced) Gas Chromatography (GC)/MS 10-14 days