Lead Paint Safety Association

Lead Paint Surveys & Testing

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Lead surveys are a legal requirement for all commercial projects wherever paintwork is liable to be disturbed, regardless of the age or type of building or structure involved.
 
Most paintwork is likely to have a lead content and the older the paintwork the higher that lead content is likely to be, whatever the surface: timber, metal, plaster, plasterboard, tile or masonry.
 
Homes and schools are no different and should be treated with particular care given the likely presence of young children and women of reproductive capacity, who may also be pregnant, during any lead exposure risk works.
 
Lead Survey Measurement
 
A professional lead survey should provide the necessary data to allow a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of likely lead exposure risks. Portable XRF-isotope (XRF-i) analysis for on-site non- destructive testing (NDT), provides the most complete and cost-effective assessments to satisfy the requirement for pre-construction information. These are required for all types of work on existing buildings and structures, including:
 
 - Painting & decorating
 - Grit blasting & industrial painting
 - Demolition & decommissioning
 - Repairs, maintenance & improvements (eg. window replacement, fire door upgrades; retro-fitting)
 - Refurbishment
 
A lead survey may also include dust, soil and water sampling in order to establish pre-works levels of lead containing materials (LCMs) other than paintwork. This helps to identify any pre-works issues as well as to establish reference levels in case of any uncontrolled contamination release during a project.
 
For smaller commercial and domestic works, where a lead survey may not be considered the automatic choice, a lower cost step-by-step approach may be preferable.  Lead survey and paint testing expenditure can be targeted in a way that is both appropriate and proportionate to the size and scope of a project.
 
Lead Paint Testing
 
The results from lead paint testing are very different to those provided by the survey and measurement of the same materials. 
 
1)  3M LeadCheck swabs provide useful confirmation of the presence of lead (often to justify the need to commission a lead survey). They are a low cost and easy-to-use chemical test that turns pink or red on contact with lead.  Popular with DIYers, they are very useful for identifying lead in paint but do not satisfy the legal requirement to quantify the amount of lead that may be present.  However, because they are NOT 100% reliable they should not be considered an alternative to the professional measurement required for commercial projects. You can buy them at Brewers or ORDER HERE.
 
3M LeadCheck swabs can be used to positively identify those areas where lead-containing paint samples can be taken, thereby helping to limit professional analysis charges (see 2) and 3) below) to samples showing 'positive' for lead.  Remember that enough samples need to be taken in order to allow a 'suitable and sufficient' risk assessment of the likely exposure risks to tradesmen and building occupants or residents. 
 
2) 'Traditional' laboratory methods, generally involving non-specialist physical 'scrape' sampling for laboratory analysis and reporting, are of limited usefulness.  As a result of poor and inconsistent sample quality, even accredited analysis of samples 'as received' tends to result in under-reporting of actual lead hazards as found on-site. In addition, their results based on 'Mass/Mass' analysis do not lend themselves to the 'Mass/Area' data required for meaningful risk assessment.
 
3) Off-site XRF-isotope analysis (XRF-i) provides 'lead survey' quality data, but for small batch analysis of intact paint samples submitted on their substrate material.
 
Lead Dust Testing
 
Lead paint only becomes an exposure risk when it is damaged or disturbed.  It is only by inhaling or ingesting lead paint chips, and lead dust or fume that exposure occurs.
 
Airborne lead dust can be sampled in order to identify the presence of 'significant' task-specific exposure risks. It usually settles within 1-2 hours of being released.
 
Dust wipe sampling of settled surface contamination can then be used to confirm the presence of an immediate lead exposure risk from inadvertent hand-to-mouth contact.
 

LiPSA's 'Free Lead Paint Test' uses dust wipe sampling to provide the best indicator of immediate exposure risks to homes and families during DIY, refurbishment and building work. 

Not surprisingly, this exposure risk is usually caused by the disturbance of lead-based paint* and/or lead-contaminated 'ceiling' dust. (*Hence its description as a lead 'paint' test because people aren't aware of the greater relevance of dust testing. Please email us for information: AVAILABLE HERE.

 

Lead surveys for pre-construction information under CDM (as advised by HSE)

Checking the effectiveness of lead dust control and personal hygiene procedures.

Airborne lead sampling and blood lead levels monitoring to meet CLAW health surveillance requirements.

Lead testing can be divided into two broad categories:

Qualitative Testing - Is there lead? Yes or No? This generally gives a low cost, chemistry-based 'indication' for regular in-house and individual use. It is not sufficient for CLAW compliance purposes.

Quantitative Testing - (If there's lead) How much lead? This is more expensive as it requires specialist equipment, used by experienced professionals in order to meet CLAW compliance requirements. It is most likely to involve the use of hand-held XRF-i (X-ray Fluorescence - isotope) technology for in-situ non-destructive testing (NDT) of 'buried' lead in paint supplemented by physical (destructive) sampling for laboratory analysis. Blood lead analysis is also quantitative.

The table below illustrates the range of tests available for lead.

Measurement Type
Qualitative Analysis

Quantitative Analysis

Blood Lead Levels (BLLs)

N / A

Yes

Airborne Lead Dust
N / A

Yes

Surface Dust Contamination

Yes

Yes

Lead-Based Paint (LBP)

Yes

Yes

Surface Skin Contamination

Yes

Yes

Lead in Soil

Yes

Yes

Lead in Water

Yes

Yes

With the exception of blood lead and airborne lead dust analysis there are a range of qualitative and quantitative testing alternatives for each of the categories shown.

Low-cost lead exposure monitoring can be carried out on-site by operatives and DIYers themselves. From reasonably accurate chemical-based indicators to laboratory accurate screening and analysis, a full range of lead testing options is now available to suit all budgets and compliance requirements.

For those requiring 'professional' sampling and full quantitative analysis by a formally trained and accredited specialist, LiPSA can advise on the most cost-effective sampling strategies.