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How is Lead Testing Done?


If you need lead testing, either for a new home purchase, a renovation, an abatement, or any one of a number of other reasons RTK is the company to call. Below, we outline the RTK process, so you know what to expect before, during, and after your lead inspection.

lead paint landlordBefore Lead Testing

A highly trained, RTK client services manager will discuss your inspection with you. They will give you advice on the best course of action depending on the situation. They will then book the test at the earliest date, or a date of your choosing, and be available to you throughout the process for follow up questions.


The Lead Paint Inspection

A licensed inspector will arrive with an instrument in a small case. This includes an XRF, or x-ray fluorescence, spectrometer. This is the instrument our lead inspectors use to test for lead in the paint. XRF lead testing involves surface-by-surface readings to determine whether lead-based paint is present in a home or commercial building. The inspector holds the XRF analyzer directly on each painted surface to take measurements, which are then classified based on either state or federal standards. This type of lead paint testing is non-invasive and doesn’t require any destruction of surfaces. Readings of the lead levels are available immediately and at the end of the inspection will be summarized for you.


What is an XRF?

In complicated terms, an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer is an x-ray instrument used for routine, non-destructive chemical analyses of rocks, minerals, sediments, and fluids. For our purposes, it allows us to identify lead up to 40 layers of paint on most painted surfaces. That’s right – we can tell if there is old lead paint under the layers of any current non-leaded paint – without ever disturbing them.

XRF lead paint testing
Using and XRF analyzer to test paint for lead during a home inspection.

Dust Sampling

Another method our inspectors can use to determine the presence of lead are dust wipe samples. This method allows us to analyze lead in the dust. Dust samples are normally taken from floors, windowsills or window wells in a measured area with a wet wipe cloth material. The dust samples are then placed in plastic tubes and sent overnight to an accredited independent laboratory. The lab usually takes 1-2 days to return the analysis and results. The results will be either acceptable or unacceptable based on state and federal standards.

Soil Sampling

Another method of lead inspection can be to take soil samples from the exterior of the building. Exterior surfaces that may have been painted with lead paint will deteriorate and may contaminate the surrounding soil areas. Surface samples of the soil are taken from various areas and placed in plastic tubes and then sent to the laboratory as indicated above for the dust wipe samples. As with the dust wipe samples the results will be either acceptable or unacceptable based on state and federal standards.

Water Sampling

Water samples are usually taken from any source of water that you intend to drink from including kitchen and bathroom faucets. These are also laboratory samples with similar standards as dust and soil.

What’s Next During a Lead Test?

Once the inspector has performed XRF readings on all of the necessary building components and taken samples of dust and/or soil and water, we then review all of the data and we’ll give you a complete and easy to read report with all of the data attached and let you know how to take care of any problems. It’s as simple and easy as that.

If you have questions about any parts of the lead inspection process or would like to book a lead test, call us at 800.392.6468.

The CDC recommends you test your well water once per year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels.

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