• Article

Field turbidity method for the determination of lead in acid extracts of dried paint

Lead, which can be found in old paint, soil, and dust, has been clearly shown to have adverse health effects on the neurological systems of both children and adults. As part of an ongoing effort to reduce childhood lead poisoning, the US Environmental Protection Agency promulgated the Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program (RRP) rule requiring that paint in target housing built prior to 1978 be tested for lead before any renovation, repair, or painting activities are initiated. This rule has led to a need for a rapid, relatively easy, and an inexpensive method for measuring lead in paint. This paper presents a new method for measuring lead extracted from paint that is based on turbidimetry. This method is applicable to paint that has been collected from a surface and extracted into 25% (v/v) of nitric acid. An aliquot of the filtered extract is mixed with an aliquot of solid potassium molybdate in 1 M ammonium acetate to form a turbid suspension of lead molybdate. The lead concentration is determined using a portable turbidity meter. This turbidimetric method has a response of approximately 0.9 NTU per µg lead per mL extract, with a range of 1–1000 Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTUs). Precision at a concentration corresponding to the EPA-mandated decision point of 1 mg of lead per cm2 is <2%. This method is insensitive to the presence of other metals common to paint, including Ba2+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Fe3+, Co2+, Cu2+, and Cd2+, at concentrations of 10 mg mL-1 or to Zn2+ at 50 mg mL-1. Analysis of 14 samples from six reference materials with lead concentrations near 1 mg cm-2 yielded a correlation to inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) analysis of 0.97, with an average bias of 2.8%. Twenty-four sets of either 6 or 10 paint samples each were collected from different locations in old houses, a hospital, tobacco factory, and power station. Half of each set was analyzed using rotor/stator-25% (v/v) nitric acid extraction with measurement using the new turbidimetric method, and the other half was analyzed using microwave extraction and measurement by ICP-AES. The average relative percent difference between the turbidimetric method and the ICP-AES method for the 24 sets measured as milligrams of lead per cm2 is -0.63 ± 32.5%; the mean difference is -2.1 ± 7.0 mg lead per cm2. Non-parametric and parametric statistical tests on these data showed no difference in the results for the two procedures. At the federal regulated level of 1 mg of lead per cm2 paint, this turbidimetric method meets the performance requirements for EPA's National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program (NLLAP) of accuracy within ±20% and has the potential to meet the performance specifications of EPA's RRP rule.


Studabaker, W., McCombs, M., Sorrell, K., Salmons, C., Brown, G., Binstock, D., ... Harper, SL. (2010). Field turbidity method for the determination of lead in acid extracts of dried paint. Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 12(7), 1393-1403. https://doi.org/10.1039/c000888e

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