Biosafety Icon

The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory (VDHL) assists with responding to new and emerging public health threats such as an unknown infectious organism, an environmental contaminant that impacts human health, or a biological, chemical or radiologic terrorist threat. The VDHL responds to these events in collaboration with first responders, law enforcement and other state and federal public health entities. 

When new health risks emerge, the VDHL analyzes the threats and provides that information to officials who can then respond effectively to protect citizens. 

VDHL’s response may range from providing information on available tests, analyzing samples within the VDHL, or collecting samples and submitting them to an outside lab.

National Laboratory Response Network and Sentinel Laboratories

The VDHL is a part of the National Laboratory Response Network (LRN) and maintains a local network of sentinel hospital laboratories to promote statewide laboratory communication for quick response to emergencies.

The laboratory supports and trains sentinel hospital laboratories in:

  • Recognizing biological and chemical terrorism agents
  • Evidence-control measures, and
  • Specimen collection, storage and shipment

Read more from the CDC on laboratory emergency preparedness

Read more information from the CDC on the Laboratory Response Network (LRN)

Biological Threats

The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory (VDHL) is a member of the CDC’s Laboratory Response Network for biological agents (LRN-B)

The VDHL serves as a reference laboratory to identify and investigate biothreat agents and emerging high consequence infectious diseases submitted by local first responders, law enforcement agencies, and Vermont health care providers.

The VDHL can test for the following agents:

  • Bacillus anthracis (bacteria that causes anthrax)
  • Burkholderia spp. (bacteria that causes melioidosis)
  • Brucella spp. (highly infectious bacteria that causes brucellosis)
  • Clostridium botulinum (bacteria that causes botulism)
  • Coxiella burnetiid (bacteria that causes Q fever)
  • Francisella tularensis (bacteria that causes tularemia)
  • Ricin toxin testing (toxic agent that causes poisoning)
  • Variola (VZV rule-in/Orthopox rule-out); (virus that causes smallpox)
  • Yersinia pestis. (bacteria that causes plague)

The VDHL must be consulted prior to submission of samples or specimens. 

Collection instructions and transport supplies for health care professionals and clinical laboratories can be provided.

Bio-Threat Resources

Chemical Threats

The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory (VDHL) is a member of the CDC’s Laboratory Response Network for chemical agents (LRN-C)

In a chemical contamination event, the VDHL can rapidly detect exposure to chemical threat agents such as mustard gas, nerve agents, lewisite, and heavy metals in clinical specimens such as urine or blood.

The VDHL must be consulted prior to submission of samples or specimens. 

Read shipping instructions from the CDC on specimens collected from people who may have been exposed to chemical agents.

Radiological Threats

The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory (VDHL) is a partner for any statewide response of a radiological threat. Radiological threats include improvised nuclear devices, radiological dispersal devices, nuclear power plant accidents with a material release, and radiological tampering of foods.

The VDHL has the capability and experience to detect radioactive materials that are alpha, beta and/or gamma radiation emitters, including radioactive cesium, iodine and tritium.

The VDHL is an EPA partner and a member of the FDA Food Emergency Response Network and Laboratory Response Network.

Read more information about radiation emergencies and emergency preparedness from the CDC.

Food Safety Testing

The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory works with the Vermont Food and Lodging Program, Vermont Department of Health Epidemiology Program, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture to ensure the safety of Vermont’s food supply. 

The Lab performs testing on food and environmental samples during outbreak investigations. We also conduct routine surveillance testing to look for harmful bacteria, particularly those known to cause food-borne illness (E. coli (O157 and STEC), Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter).

Read more information on foodborne illnesses from the Health Department


Form for Agency use only: Environmental/Food Test Request Form

Our laboratory is accredited to ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standards.

For more details on our current scope of accreditation please refer to the ISO/IEC 17025:2017 Certificate located on the Public Health Laboratory About Us page.

Environmental Testing for Public Health Surveillance


Legionellosis is an infection caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila. Outbreaks of legionellosis occurred after people breathed mists from a contaminated water source (e.g., air conditioning cooling towers, whirlpool spas, showers). Legionella can cause Legionnaires’ (LEE-juh-nares) disease which is a serious type of pneumonia. 

Water samples submitted for Legionella pneumophila testing must be linked to a public health investigation and approved/collected by the Vermont Department of Health Environmental Health Division.

More information from the Health Department on Legionellosis.

For more information from the CDC on Legionella click on the topics below:



Radiological Icon

Environmental Radiochemistry

The Vermont Department of Health performs radiological testing on environmental samples in partnership with the Radiological Sciences Program and the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Multiple sample types are tested for naturally occurring and man-made radioactive materials.

Sample types include:

  • Water
  • Soil/Sediment
  • Milk
  • Vegetation
  • Fish
  • Air

The Laboratory can detect alpha, beta and gamma emitters, including tritium and radioactive iodine and cesium. 

The Laboratory does not accept samples from members of the public for this type of testing.

Last Updated: