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Challenges of Detecting Lead in Drinking Water Using at-Home Test Kits

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journal contribution
posted on 11.01.2021, 19:07 by Rebecca Kriss, Kelsey J. Pieper, Jeffrey Parks, Marc A. Edwards
Lead in drinking water remains a significant human health risk. At-home lead in water test kits could provide consumers with a convenient and affordable option to evaluate this risk, but their accuracy and reliability is uncertain. This study examined the ability of at-home lead test kits to detect varying concentrations of dissolved and particulate lead in drinking water. Sixteen brands representing four test kit types (binary color, binary strip, colorimetric vial, and color strip) were identified. Most kits (12 of 16 brands) were not suitable for drinking water analysis, with lead detection limits of 5–20 mg/L. Binary strips detected dissolved lead at drinking water-relevant levels but failed to detect particulate lead. Household acids (lemon juice and vinegar) improved the strip’s ability to detect lead by dissolving some of the lead particulates to the point soluble lead exceeded 15 μg/L. These results illustrate the applications of at-home testing kits for drinking water analysis, highlight limitations and areas for possible improvement, and put forth a testing protocol by which new at-home lead test kits can be judged.