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Consumer Reports’ Finds Some Lead Test Kits Can Be Good First Step – If Instructions Are Followed Carefully

2008-08-04 17:22:00

Consumer Reports’ Finds Some Lead Test Kits Can Be Good First Step – If Instructions Are Followed Carefully

    Radon kit evaluations show long-term test kits more accurate than short


    YONKERS, N.Y., Aug. 4 /EMWNews/ -- Consumer Reports'

tests of 18 lead and radon test kits for the September issue confirmed that

some are a good first step, but testers also found confusing instructions,

challenging procedures and inaccurate results.

    Four lead test kits for detecting lead in house paint - Abotex Lead

Inspector Lead Test Kit, $13; First Alert Premium Lead Test Kit LT1, $20;

Homax LeadCheck 5250 Test Kit, $8; and SKC LeadCheck Instant 225-2404

Sampling Test Kit, $24 - were rated Easy to Use. Industrial Test Systems

SenSafe Lead Paint Test 480310, $15, had confusing instructions and was

rated Difficult to Use.

    Among radon test kits, CR tested seven short-term kits, three long-term

kits and a digital-readout meter that can be used for either short or

long-term measurements using experts at two outside labs. Among long-term

kits (typically exposed for 90 days or more before lab analysis) Accustar

Alpha Track Test Kit AT 100, $28, topped CR's ratings and is a CR Best Buy.

All three long-term kits, however, were very good.

    While some were fine options, three short-term kits were especially

inaccurate, unreliable, or both. The Accustar Short Term LS Radon Test Kit

CLS 100i, $25, and the Kidde Radon Detection Kit 442020, $16, underreported

radon levels by almost 40 percent. The Accustar Short Term Canister Radon

Test Kit AC-1001, $30, was only "Fair" in accuracy and in reproducing the

same result under the same conditions.

    The full report is available in the September issue of Consumer Reports

on sale August 5th and online at

    CR hired a licensed lead inspector to scan for lead in three pre-1960

homes owned by Consumers Union staffers. Lead-based paint in homes was

outlawed in the U.S. in 1978; many homes built before then probably have

some. Then, the homeowners used seven do-it-yourself test kits, costing

between $8 and $30. All the kits quickly indicated where lead was present.

    Lead can sicken people at any age, but young children are at greatest

risk; hundreds of thousands of them in the United States have elevated

levels in their blood. Paint levels starting at 5,000 parts per million

(ppm) or 1 milligram per square centimeter (1mg/cm2) are considered high

enough to require evaluation by the Department of Housing and Urban

Development in federally funded or aided housing. Consumers Union, the

publisher of Consumer Reports, however, believes that any lead that could

be ingested or inhaled could pose a serious risk, especially to children.

    "Lead test kits are a reasonable first step for homes built before 1978

if no one in the house has elevated blood levels," said Celia Kuperszmid

Lehrman, deputy home editor, Consumer Reports. "Every homeowner should test

their home for radon and we recommend that people use long-term test kits

because radon levels can change from day-to-day and month-to month."

    Lead-paint kits

    Lead paint can gradually deteriorate into flakes, chips, and fine dust

that's easily inhaled or eaten by small children, even when it's covered by

many layers of unleaded paint. Lead poisoning's effects can include brain

damage and diminished mental and physical development.

    The kits CR tested detected lead levels as low as 2,000 ppm in the

home-based tests. In CR's lab tests, some kits detected lead at levels

below 1,000 ppm. None of them falsely identified paint in a Consumer

Reports lab painted in 1990 as having lead. CR's experts found that all

kits required practice: exposing the layers of old paint took strength,

dexterity, and lots of practice. Home test kits use one of two chemicals to

detect lead by color change, but correctly reading color changes when lead

levels were low also took practice.

    All children should be screened at ages 1 and 2. The Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention defines elevated lead levels as 10

micrograms per deciliter of blood, but Consumers Union, the nonprofit

publisher of Consumer Reports, believes that the CDC should lower that

amount to 5 micrograms per deciliter because research suggests that even

low levels may be harmful.

    If a child tests negative and you live in a house built before 1978,

you might still want to know if any painted surfaces contain lead, since

remodeling and even sanding could release it. Rhodizonate-based kits can

yield false positives on red or pink paint and sulfide-based kits can yield

false negatives or positives on dark paint. For more reliable results, use

one of each type of kit.

    If your child tests positive, the quickest route to detection and

stabilization is to find a certified lead inspector or risk assessor.

    Radon Kits

    Radon, an invisible radioactive gas, results from the breakdown of

uranium and radium in the soil and rocks beneath homes. After smoking,

radon is the top cause of lung cancer and is responsible for some 21,000

deaths a year, according to the EPA. Overexposure is symptom-free, and once

you're exposed, there's no treatment.

    Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L); 1.3 is considered

the national average indoor level. Although 4 pCi/L is the recommended EPA

action level, the agency also suggests that homeowners consider remediation

at levels between 2- and 4-pCi/L.

    CR found that long-term radon kits are more accurate. Radon levels can

vary significantly from day to day. Sampling levels for 90 days or more

gives you a more accurate idea of average radon levels. Only one short-term

kit, the RTCA 4 Pass Charcoal Canister, $20, was accurate enough for CR to

recommend. But homeowners should still confirm its results with a long-term

test. The $120 Safety Siren Pro Series 3 digital meter is best for

monitoring levels after mitigation.

    SEPTEMBER 2008

    (C) Consumers Union 2008. The material above is intended for legitimate

news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional

purposes. Consumer Reports(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert,

independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair,

just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to

protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect.

To maintain our independence and impartiality, CU accepts no outside

advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the

interests of consumers. CU supports itself through the sale of our

information products and services, individual contributions, and a few

noncommercial grants.

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Blake Masterson

Freelance Writer, Journalist and Father of 5

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