Lead (Pb)


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Subject: Lead (Pb)

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  • An element with four stable isotopes (204, 206, 207, and 208) found naturally in minerals; in man-made products such as paint, gasoline, cigarette smoke, solder in cans, and ceramics; and as a contaminant in soil and water.

  • Normal range: <10 μg/dL (<0.48 mmol/L).


  • Lead is malleable, ductile, and a poor conductor of electricity; therefore, it is used in building construction, bullets, lead–acid batteries, pewter, and radiation shields.


  • Refer to current local state or federal (CDC) guidelines regarding treatment at specific blood lead concentrations. Note that thresholds for treatment vary for adults, children, and pregnant women.

  • See discussion of lead poisoning in Chapter 14.


  • Whole blood free of clots.

  • Specimen must be collected using a procedure that minimizes environmental contamination.

  • Specimen container must be lead free.

  • POC testing devices:

    • Electrochemical methodology

    • One-step sample pretreatment

    • Limit of quantitation: 3–5 μg/dL

    • Results available in <5 minutes

    • Results may agree within ±20% ICP-MS

  • Laboratory-based instrumentation

    • Atomic absorption

      • Target analyte: nonionized atomic lead

      • Limit of quantitation: 1 μg/dL

    • Anodic stripping

      • Target analyte: oxidized lead

      • Limit of quantitation: 1–2 μg/dL

      • Requires sample pretreatment

    • Inductively coupled plasma MS

      • Target analyte: ions at mass/charge ratio of natural isotopes of Pb

      • Limit of quantitation: <1 μg/dL

      • Expensive technology