Testing the lead test kits

Consumer Reports News: October 22, 2007 12:09 PM

Three of the five home lead-testing kits we tested at Consumer Reports were useful though limited screening tools if you are worried about specific items in your home. The kits detect surface, or “accessible,” lead. They don’t detect lead embedded below the surface. If an item tests positive, remove it from use. For exact lead levels, have it screened professionally.

Homax Lead Check, $8
Lead Check Household Lead Test Kit, $18.45

These two kits consist of cigarette-shaped swabs, made by the same company, that turn pink when they detect lead. They were the easiest to use and identified accessible lead in toys, ceramic dishware, and vinyl or plastic. If lead concentrations are low, these swabs can take up to two hours to change color, but in our tests high concentrations produced immediate results. The eight-swab Lead Check Household Lead Test Kit pack is a better bargain than the Homax two-swab pack. Its packaging was less susceptible to being crushed.

Lead Inspector, $13
Swabs turn yellow, brown, gray, or black if lead is detected. It can take up to 10 minutes for a color change to occur at low lead levels. The kit, with eight tests, identified accessible lead and might be a good choice for painted metal jewelry. It also might be superior for pink or red items, because if those shades of paint bled onto a Lead Check swab, it might falsely appear to be positive. Have good ventilation and wear gloves to protect skin from chemicals.

First Alert, $13
The four test swabs provided are similar in design to those used in Lead Inspector. But we experienced some false negatives for accessible lead.

Pro-Lab Lead Surface, $10
This kit was less sensitive and more difficult to use. Two small pieces of treated paper are cut to create six tests. The paper is moistened and rubbed on the object, but we found the paper often fell apart before the two-minute rubbing time was over.

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