Human health is the product of both genetic susceptibility and environmental exposure, but many human health studies have not considered the full array of environmental exposures that may affect an individual’s health and well-being. To better understand how environmental exposures may affect health and lead to disease, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) established the Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource (HHEAR) program in 2019 to allow researchers access to the analytical capabilities necessary to accurately measure, record, and analyze environmental exposures.

In 2019, Heather Stapleton was awarded a NIEHS grant that established Duke University as one of the lab hubs to analyze samples for the HHEAR program. Together with co-directors Associate Professor Lee Ferguson and Professor Heileen Hsu-Kim, Dr. Stapleton initiated the Duke Environmental Analysis Laboratory (DEAL), which provides access to cutting-edge technologies to support targeted and non-targeted analyses of environmental samples. To provide services for both organic and inorganic contaminants, the DEAL employs the newest approaches for suspect-screening and non-targeted analysis of chemicals using high-resolution mass spectrometry. Sample matrices include water, air, soil, sediment, house dust, hand wipes, and silicone wristbands.

Targeted Analyses

Non-targeted Analyses

Organic chemicals:
Advanced data processing capabilities such as:
– Brominated flame retardants – Accurate mass library matching
– Organophosphate flame retardants – In-silico MS/MS prediction algorithms
– Pesticides – Data science platforms for spectral harmonization and consolidation
– Phenols/parabens  
– Phthalate plasticizers  
– Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)


Inorganic chemicals (including but not limited to):
High resolution MS instrumentation such as:
– Arsenic – Orbitrap Fusion Lumos LC-MS/MS
– Cadmium – Q-Exactive GC-MS/MS
– Lead  
– Mercury  

HHEAR and the DEAL hub can provide a wide range of services including analysis of environmental and biological samples, statistical and data analysis, and support for feasibility studies. HHEAR is designed to provide researchers access to the full range of environmental exposures assessment services for their NIH-funded epidemiological and clinical health studies.

To learn more about submitting samples to the DEAL hub or for more information about HHEAR eligibility please visit the HHEAR website.

Rachel SmithHuman Health Exposure Analysis Resource Program