Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a fast, portable lab that can detect toxic levels of lead and other heavy metals in samples of blood, urine or even saliva. The battery-powered device, which is about the size of a fishing tackle box, should reportedly cost just a tenth of today’s bulkier systems. And it’s fast: Instead of sending samples off to a lab, and waiting for the results, everything can be done on-site. After a simple finger prick, results follow within two to five minutes.
The scientists say the portable lab could help industrial workers who may accumulate high levels of toxic metals in their blood over time, or children living in polluted, high-risk areas. Parents panicking last year after discovering that their kids were playing with lead-tainted toys probably would’ve liked access to one of the systems as well.