Field Dust Lead Test Kit Reliability Study

Project Funder: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Project Contact: Jonathan Wilson,, 443.539.4162

Project Description: This project compared the performance of trained and untrained individuals in the use of field kits for settled dust lead testing. With advice from an expert panel, the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) developed a dust lead testing kit, which was designed to provide easy-to-use instructions and materials. A grading system was used to determine the performance of five certified lead inspectors and five certified risk assessors when using the kit. The same grading system was used to evaluate the performance of 25 untrained homeowners and 25 untrained rental property owners/managers in using the kit. These target groups were selected because they represented likely users of consumer-based dust testing kits and because they varied in terms of education, motivation, and knowledge of lead issues. The proficiency of the untrained participants was compared to the proficiency of the trained and certified lead professionals. The grading system assessed four different aspects of lead dust sample collection: floor sample collection, windowsill sample collection, completion of the sample collection form, and interpretation of laboratory results.

The untrained homeowners and property owners performed at least 90% as well as the trained participants in three of the four assessment components: floor sample collection, completion of the sample information form, and interpretation of laboratory results. However, the untrained personnel performed more poorly for windowsill sample collection.

A higher education level and some prior experience with lead dust testing were two factors related to higher performance scores. Participants who held master's or bachelor's degrees or who had completed some college courses scored significantly higher than those with a high school degree or fewer years of school. The untrained participants who were less successful in their performance may have benefited from instructions that included clearer images and definitions of the components and sample areas. Participants who were not trained but had some prior experience with lead dust testing, including having their homes tested for lead dust, or observing or implementing a lead dust test, also scored significantly higher.

The study demonstrated that untrained users can collect lead dust samples almost as well as trained users when the kit is designed for use by individuals unfamiliar with the lead dust sampling procedure, with the exception of interior windowsills.

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