The swabs are intended to provide an instant response for a user who is testing for the presence of lead in paint in a home. HybriVet Systems originally manufactured the kits until 3M purchased the company in 2011.
3M did not respond to inquiries about the accuracy of their test swabs from Investigative Post. The company’s website states the swabs are “EPA recognized on drywall and plaster” and provide “superior accuracy and sensitivity.” A representative of the former makers of the kits, Hybrivet Systems, told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle in 2007 that “we never developed the tests for dust.”
"No kit in the study achieved low rates of both false-positive and false-negative results. Two out of six kits were prone to false-negative results. Negative test results obtained with these two kits do not necessarily indicate the absence of lead. The other four kits had a tendency to produce false-positive results, even at levels of lead well below the federal thresholds." - 2015 EPA Study Overall, the rate of false negatives for the LeadCheck Swabs was 64% (sensitivity of 36%). Thus, nearly two-thirds of the samples taking according to spot test kit instructions for detecting lead in dust and received a negative result, hazardous levels of dust lead (i.e., ≥40 μg/ft2) were actually present. There are a number of possible reasons why the LeadCheck Swabs did not perform as well as expected for detecting lead in the dust under field conditions. First, the number of brown-colored swab results suggests that dirt may interfere with the overall sensitivity of the swabs. Many of the swabs turned some shade of brown between the pure yellow and pink/red color results discussed in the LeadCheck Swab instructions. This suggests that household dirt may interfere with the reaction between the dye in the LeadCheck Swabs and reactive lead in the dust. Dust wipes are analyzed using flame atomic absorption spectroscopy (FAAS), inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometry or other similar procedure, which detects total lead that has been dissolved and digested using strong acid and reflux, whereas the swabs may only detect free lead ions that have been dissolved using the reagent in the swabs, which is not a strong acid. Lead that is bound to other molecules or insoluble might not trigger the swabs’ chemical reaction. The results of this study suggest that LeadCheck Swabs do not reliably detect levels of lead in dust above 40 μg/ft2 using published methods under field conditions. The swabs did not accurately predict hazardous levels of dust lead loading for any studied surface (i.e., floors or sills) or substrate (i.e., painted or unpainted).
HUD, Sections 8 & King County Housing Authority view Lead Paint Testing:
Testing of specific surfaces, by XRF (x-ray fluorescence) or lab analysis, to determine the lead content of these surfaces, performed by a certified lead-based paint inspector or certified risk assessor. Lead Swabs are not allowed or accepted as a means of lead paint testing.
Lead-Based Paint Laws and Rules LEAD ABATEMENT PROFESSIONALS WAC 365-230 – Administrative rule that describes requirements for individuals and firms performing lead-based paint abatement, risk assessments, hazard screens, inspections, renovations, and dust sampling.NOTE: Washington Regulations are written to mirror the federal EPA LBP/RRP regulations with only one exception. To find this exception, please refer to WAC 365-230-200 (8) (g) and (h) Washington Business Licensing Requirements – Links to the Washington Department of Licensing business licensing webpage. Any firm applying for lead-based paint activities certification from the Department of Commerce must be licensed to do business in Washington and must provide their Uniform Business Identifier (UBI) number. CONTRACTORS AND PAINTERS Worker Protection and Safety Requirements - Links to the Washington Department of Labor and Industries Lead Safety webpage, including the Lead in Construction Rule. Employers must protect their employees from exposure to lead. Contractor Registration – Links to the Washington Department of Labor and Industries contractor registration webpage.
Any home constructed before 1978 may have lead paint. As a result, in 1991 the EPA stated that lead-based paint is considered the “number one environmental threat to children’s health in the United States.” More importantly, according to the EPA, lead paint removal should only be performed by A Certified Seattle Lead Paint Removal Contractor.