Health & Fitness

Home lead tests have their limits

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rising concern about lead in imported toys has parents running to the store to buy home testing kits. But experts warn that the kits have only limited value.

A recent Consumer Reports study found three of five popular kits detected surface or accessible lead but didn't detect lead embedded below the surface.

Senior product safety director Donald Mays said the results show that as a means to assess the safety of products in their homes, the "lead tests are a useful though limited screening tool."

Paula Macaitis, a lead-risk assessor for the Kansas City, Mo., Health Department, agreed. She said most kits were designed to test only for "surface lead."

As a result, the test might give a parent a false sense of security.

Her recommendation is that parents who have concerns should have their children tested for lead at least once a year.

She also recommended that parents monitor product recalls.

The Consumer Reports test found that three kits, the Homax Lead Check ($8), Lead Check Household Lead Test Kit ($18.45) and Lead Inspector ($13), detected surface or accessible lead.

It said the Homax Lead Check and the Lead Check Household Lead Test Kit were the easiest to use on toys, ceramic dishware and vinyl or plastic.