Lead Paint Test Kits

It is no secret - lead based paints are hazardous to your health, and to the health of everyone exposed to them. Lead was used as a pigment and drying agent in oil-based paints. Latex paint, which is water based, does not generally contain lead. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, two-thirds of homes built prior to 1940 and half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960 contain heavily leaded paint. Some homes built after 1960 also contain heavily leaded paint. It may be on any interior or exterior surface, particularly on woodwork, doors, and windows.

Untold Damage Results From Lead In Paint

Millions of people have been poisoned from exposure to lead in paints. It is a source of lead poisoning in children and can have an effect upon adults. Irreversible brain damage and impairment of mental function is a direct result of lead poisoning in children and babies. Mental and physical development is slowed and attention deficit is increased. In pregnant women, even low levels of exposure can damage the unborn baby. Men who have lead poisoning can have fertility issues due to decreased sperm count. Adults may suffer with poor muscle coordination, nerve damage, increased blood pressure, and irritability.

Government Testing For People In Dangerous Situations

The government provides screening, especially for families living in old, deteriorating houses, and checks children regularly for signs of lead poisoning. Currently, the lead level that defines lead poisoning is 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. However, this number is being assessed because lead poisoning can occur at lower levels than 10 micrograms. Lowering the acceptable level may prevent lead poisoning in children.

Do-It-Yourself Home Paint Test Kits

Paint test kits are available in many hardware stores and as a rule, are quite accurate. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has not evaluated many of them. They recommend lab testing as opposed to home do-it-yourself testing. Having a lab test done can cost anywhere from $20.00 to $50.00 and requires the sample to be sent away to be evaluated.

In one home kit, a sodium sulphide solution is dropped onto a paint chip. If lead is present, the chip slowly turns dark. The problem with the test is that other metals present in the paint may cause a false-positive result, indicating the test may not be correct. In another type of test, a trained professional who is capable of operating testing equipment safely, uses an x-ray fluorescence to determine the presence of lead in a particle. It is a home-test, but a trained person should do it since the test contains radioactive material.

Consumer Reports Weigh In

Consumer Reports tested seven different types of paint test kits and discovered that overall, if a person follows the directions explicitly, the kits can be a first step in detecting lead in paint. There were two kits they found problematic. One is Pro-Lab's Lead-in-Paint-and-Dust kit. This kit does not give immediate results and the levels suggested as "safe" were in excess of what is considered safe by national standards. Another kit, SenSafe, had directions in tiny print, difficult to read and confusing, making mistakes more likely.