Sampling for Lead in Paints

October 29, 2010

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Lead abatement activities often begin with collecting samples from possible sources of lead contamination. After these samples are collected, they undergo tests and analysis to confirm the presence and levels of lead in the location.

One of the sampling methods often used prior to lead abatement procedures is paint chips sampling, which can measure the amount of lead present in paint. Paint chips are either collected right off the sample surface and sent for analysis in a laboratory, or a portable XRF device is used to directly measure the lead content in the target surface.

When collecting paint chips, the lead abatement professional collects all layers of paint in the target area, enough for comprehensive testing. When using an XRF device, the lead abatement worker should operate the XRF instrument following the EPA guidelines and procedures. When XRF readings are questionable or inconclusive, the lead abatement worker must resort to actual paint chips collection and laboratory testing method.

Paint chip collection is possible on areas that are already deteriorating. But chipped and damaged surfaces will not provide a good XRF reading; hence XRF lead sampling is only applicable on intact surfaces.

The paint samples either undergo atomic spectrometry testing to measure the volume and weight of lead in the sample, or the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) to infer the amount of lead that can leach out in landfills.

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