5 On Your Side

Reports: Home Lead-Test Kits Unreliable

Home test kits used to detect lead in toys are unreliable, according to two recent studies by Consumer Reports and the federal government.

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Reports: Home Lead Test Kits Unreliable

Two recent studies indicate that home test kits used to detect lead in toys are unreliable.

With a wave of toy recalls due to lead paint, many parents, day-care workers and school staffers have turned to screening toys themselves. Local stores told 5 on Your Side that they cannot keep home lead-test kits stocked.

However, a report released on Monday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that consumers not use those kits to find out if a product contains lead.

"Consumers should exercise caution when using these test kits to evaluate consumer products for potential lead exposures," the report reads. "False results can make it difficult or impossible for consumers to determine the proper course of action to take."

Consumer Reports found similar results when it tested toys with five kits. Three kits detected lead on the surface – but not lead present beneath the surface.

CPSC reported Monday that 56 of its 104 tests resulted in false negatives. Two came up with false positives.

Part of the problem is that many of the kits are designed to test lead in old paint, which has a much higher concentration of lead. Dirt and other compounds can show up as lead.

CPSC said the only way to know for sure is for laboratory technicians to test toys. These tests, however, cannot be used by consumers; they are expensive and destroy the product.

"Testing by a qualified laboratory and trained personnel is the only way to accurately assess the potential risk posed by a consumer product that may contain lead," read the CPSC report.


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