Testing Hazardous Materials
Information for first responders and public safety personnel during a suspicious substance event
The Public Health Laboratory is a resource for first responders. Your hard work and cooperation are vital in an emergency response, and we appreciate our ability to partner with you to characterize unknown hazardous materials.
Visit Radiological Emergencies to report a radioactive materials incident to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Delivering unknown substance samples to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH)
Unknown substance samples delivered to the Minnesota Department of Health’s Public Health Laboratory must undergo a risk assessment before being accepted. The risk assessment must take into account whether or not individuals have been exposed to the substance, if anyone is experiencing symptoms, and what the field screening results indicate. Based on this risk assessment the laboratory will decide whether or not it will accept the sample.
Suspicious samples that are collected for analysis by the Public Health Laboratory may result in litigation. It is very important therefore to begin chain-of-custody documentation when the sample is collected.
In addition to completing a chain-of-custody form, we request that all samples be screened for explosives before being delivered. Before accepting a sample, our laboratory will ask the caller for the results of any field screening as well as any other available information about the incident.
Contact information and directions to MDH
General Information 651-201-5200
CT On-Call Phone 612-282-3750
PDFs and sites
Hazardous Materials Exposure Guide (PDF): This step-by-step medical response guide was a developed through a collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Poison Control Center. It contains information for treating individuals that may have been exposed to toxic industrial chemicals and provides sample collection information for samples being shipped to MDH.
Chemical Terrorism Poster (PDF) was developed to remind first responders and health care professionals of some of the dangers associated with industrial chemicals. It highlights some of the hazard classes of concern, names representative chemicals, and lists indicative lab results.
CDC’s General Information on Chemical Emergencies is a great resource for first responders, health care professionals and members of the general public interested in chemical preparedness information.
Guidance on Initial Responses to a Suspicious Letter/Container with a Potential Biological Threat (PDF) is an FBI – DHS – HHS/CDC Coordinated Document.