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Analytical Chemistry

NIST Issues Standard For Testing Lead

by Britt E. Erickson
October 22, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 43

Credit: NIST
A handheld device for lead testing.
Screen grab of handheld X-ray fluorescence instrument used to detect lead in paint on products.
Credit: NIST
A handheld device for lead testing.

The National Institute of Standards & Technology has developed a standard reference material for testing lead in paint on children’s toys. The material is intended to be used by manufacturers to confirm that their methods for quantifying lead levels in toys yield accurate results. Under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, children’s products can contain no more than 90 mg of lead per kg of paint. Manufacturers are required to demonstrate compliance with the law by using a method that relies on several X-ray beams with different energies. Measurements obtained with handheld X-ray fluorescence instruments are not accepted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission as evidence of compliance, but manufacturers can use such methods as a quick screening tool to determine whether more thorough testing is needed. The new NIST reference material gives valid results for both methods. Lead compounds were commonly used as pigments in paints, but because of the toxicity of lead, the use of such compounds has been in decline.


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