Frequently Asked Questions about Lead Testing

Q: How is lead testing conducted?
Q:
Why can’t I just use my renovator lead-testing kit?
Q: Why would I get my home tested for lead?
Q: Why would a property manager get rental properties tested for lead?
Q: What type of insurance does XRF Services carry?
Q: Why does the EPA require lead compliance while renovating a home?
Q: Where does XRF Services do lead-testing?
Q: What parts of my home should I have tested?
Q: Where might XRF Services find lead in a home?
Q: How old are the homes that typically were painted with lead paint, or built with lead-based products?
Q: What happens if my home tests positive for lead paint or lead-based products?
Q: Can you opt-out from the EPA lead RRP rule while renovating?
Q: Who is qualified to use the XRF Analyzer?
Q: Why should an XRF Analyzer be used instead of using the renovator test kit?
Q: What is the definition of a False Positive?

Answers

Q: How is lead testing conducted?
A: There are only a couple of common ways to test a home for lead. One of the common methods of testing is the taking of paint chip samples. A very summarized description of this method is as follows; A two inch square paint chip sample is carefully cut out of the surface in question so that none of the substrate (such as drywall) under the paint comes off with the paint. The sample must be paint only. Each sample must be stored separately in their individual hard shell container, they are then sealed and labeled. All of the samples are then sent to a lab to be tested. After the results are returned from the lab, several more hours are spent generating a detailed report indicating exactly where lead was found and not found in or outside the house including a diagram of the floor plan of the house that was tested. Then the report is sent to the client.

To do a complete lead test for an average house could easily require between 130 to 250 separate samples and these samples which can only be taken by a "Certified lead paint inspector or Risk assessor". As you can imagine this method can be extremely time consuming and expensive with some companies charging $100 per hour plus $18 per sample. This method is also extremely destructive to the painted surfaces.

The items to be tested are anything that has been painted, stained or factory finishes and glazes such as, but not limited to, ceramic tile, countertops and metal baked on factory paint on vents and lighting grates.

In summary, to qualify as a "Lead Based Paint Inspection", every component in every room must be tested as well as the complete exterior of a house. For example, in just one room samples need to be taken from each of the four walls, baseboards, door casings, doors, door jambs, ceiling, vent covers, cabinets, uncarpeted flooring, window frames, window sashes, window sills, window troughs, fireplaces, built in shelving, crown molding, countertops, bathtubs, etc...

The other common method of lead paint testing is to use the “XRF Analyzer”. This is the EPA's preferred method of testing because it is accurate, nondestructive (no removal of paint is needed), it is much faster and rarely needs to use a lab. The testing methodology is basically the same as paint chip sampling except without the cutting and the involvement of the lab. Another advantage is the ability to test ceramic tile flooring, tile showers and countertops with ease. Again, the “XRF Analyzer” can only be used by a "Certified Lead Paint Inspector or Risk Assessor" whom has additionally been certified to use the “XRF Analyzer”.

A lot of people ask why would any company still use the "The paint chip sample collecting method"? The reason is simple, It costs tens of thousands of dollars to purchase the “XRF Analyzer” and it needs to have the power core replaced on a regular basis which costs thousands of dollars more. Lastly, there is more documentation required to use the “XRF Analyzer” in regards to calibration, storage and use.

Q: Why can’t I just use my renovator lead-testing kit?
A: You can use your renovator lead-test kit but it is destructive to painted surfaces and it does give false-positive readings which would then make you have to treat the renovation project as if it contains lead. In order for a test-kit to be EPA certified, the EPA requires that it not give a false-negative result more than 5% of the time; but some kits can give a significant number of false positive readings. The EPAs main concern is the false negative readings because that would allow a renovator to not set up containment even though lead is present. The end result is that the public can be contaminated. False positives are not as big of a concern for the EPA because the public cannot be contaminated by it even though the contractor is forced to do additional work. Also the renovator test kits cannot be used to test all surfaces that may be effected by a renovation.

Q: Why would I get my home tested for lead?
A: The three main reasons why someone would test their home for lead:

  • Out of concern for the general health of the household.
  • When purchasing a home, it can be very helpful to know what areas of the home contain lead as far as the cost of future renovations. Wherever lead is present, you must use a certified renovator to do the work; therefore the material and labor cost will be higher for said future renovations.
  • If you are purchasing a home as an investment property to rent, landlords are responsible for having improvements done by certified renovators and notifying tenants of the potential existence of lead.

Q: Why would a property manager get rental properties tested for lead?
A: A property manager is usually responsible for setting up contractors or handymen to do repairs or renovations on the homes for the owners. Because of this, they are responsible for all of the record-keeping procedures outlined by the EPA in respect to the RRP program. The slightest violation uncovered in an EPA audit could result in substantial fines to the property management company. Most homes built prior to 1978 do not contain lead-based paint throughout the home. If there are positive readings for lead-based paint, it is usually in certain areas. Having the home tested at least lets the property management company know where the lead is which can substantially reduce the paperwork necessary for some renovations, if not all.

Q: What type of insurance does XRF Services carry?
A: Professional liability and errors and omissions insurance.

Q: Why does the EPA require lead compliance while renovating a home?
A: Most renovations in a pre-1978 home generate a substantial amount of dust. If the dust generated contains small amounts of lead, it primarily settles on horizontal surfaces, such as floors, counters, cabinets, and even the ground outside. Small children and pets spend a great deal of time playing on these surfaces which can cause lead exposure. Children under 6 and pregnant women are most susceptible but people of all ages can become ill.

Q: Where does XRF Services do lead-testing?
A: We primarily service Maricopa and Pima counties.

Q: What parts of my home should I have tested?
A: The entire interior and exterior of a home should be checked. Lead based paint can be found anywhere, even in the painted glaze on ceramic tile. Most homeowners and renovators don't even know it’s there.

Q: Where might XRF Services find lead in a home?
A: Lead-based paint can be found anywhere and sometimes where you least expect to find it. Older homes have been renovated in the past, different walls have been painted at different times with different paint. Sometimes there is just one wall in the entire home that tests positive for lead because a previous owner used an old can of paint as an accent on a wall. However, the most common places are kitchens, bathrooms, and the exterior of a home because of the durability of lead-based paint.

Q: How old are the homes that typically were painted with lead paint, or built with lead-based products?
A: According to the EPA, homes built from 1960 to 1977 will have some positive test results for lead-based paint 24% of the time. Homes built from 1940 to 1959 will test positive 66% of the time. Prior to 1940, 89% of the time.

Q: What happens if my home tests positive for lead paint or lead-based products?
A: When selling a home built prior to 1978, you must notify the purchaser that the home was built prior to 1978 and potentially contains lead-based paint hazards. If you have had any tests done, then the results of those tests must be provided to the purchaser. That is why it is so important to conduct all testing in the most accurate manner such as the XRF analyzer. If renovator test-kits are used, then any false positive readings must be given to the purchaser which could make the home appear to have more lead contamination than it really does.

Q: Can you opt-out from the EPA lead RRP rule while renovating?
A: Starting July 6, 2010, no one who lives in pre-1978 target housing can opt-out regardless if children live in the home or not.

Q: Who is qualified to use the XRF Analyzer?
A: The XRF analyzer can only be used by an EPA certified lead-paint inspector or risk assessor.

Q: Why should an XRF Analyzer be used instead of using the renovator test kit?
A: Certified Renovators can use the renovator test kits but they are destructive to painted surfaces and cannot be used to test all surfaces that may be effected by a renovation. The most costly result of using renovator test kits are the false positive readings that occur.

Q: What is the definition of a False Positive?
A: First we need to understand the definition of false negative and false positive readings. A false negative reading is when there is lead present and the lead test result says there is no lead. This is the EPA’s main concern because that would allow a renovator to not take precautions to eliminate the spread of lead contaminated dust.

A false positive is when there is no lead present and the test result says there is lead. False positives are not the EPA’s primary concern because the public cannot be contaminated by it though the contractor is forced to do additional work and record keeping. All of the current recognized tests have safeguards built in to give a positive result if the test cannot verify there is no lead present.

In reference to the renovator tests, as certified renovators learned in their renovator training manuals, the current recognized kits are considered accurate for the false negative not the false positive. Go to epa.gov/lead, type in, "lead test kit" in the search bar and go to the page for test kits. You will see the phrase that states, “currently, a lead test kit can be EPA-recognized if it meets the negative response (pertaining to a false negative) criterion of no more than 5% false negatives…The recognition of such kits will last until the EPA publicizes it’s recognition of the first test kit that meets both the negative response and positive response criteria….”

Further down on the page at the description of the currently approved tests, all of them state that they “can reliably determine that regulated lead-based paint is not present.” None of them say they can reliably determine that lead is present (false positives).

In summary, false positive readings unnecessarily increase the cost of material and labor, increase the amount of record keeping, and most importantly increases exposure to potential fine and/or litigation.