Lead Analysis for Homeowners
In the US, lead was widely used in paint, gasoline, and other applications in the past and is still used in batteries, solder, pipes, pottery, roofing materials and some cosmetics. Countries outside the US may also have less restrictive rules about lead in their products.
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Children younger than 6 years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. Preventing lead exposure is critical because there is no safe level of lead in the human body.
Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are the most common sources of lead poisoning in children. Other sources include contaminated air, water and soil. Adults who work with batteries, do home renovations or work in auto repair shops also might be exposed to lead.
If you suspect your home might contain lead paint, you should have it tested. Home kits are cheap and widely available, but are not quantitative and can be inaccurate. The best results come from laboratory analysis.
What we do
The Wisconsin Occupational Health Lab (WOHL) provides businesses and the public with lead testing in paint, soil, and dust.
If you are looking to test your drinking water for lead, please contact our Environmental Testing division https://www.slh.wisc.edu/environmental/water/public-environmental-and-water-testing-prices/ to order a sampling kit.
If you are looking for lead testing in blood, please see your physician or consult the Wisconsin Department of Health Services webpage: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/lead/index.htm
For lead testing in soil, paint, and dust (on a wipe) the fee is $38 per sample for a normal turn-around-time (TAT) of 7 working days. If you need your results more quickly, please call (608) 224-6210 and speak with our analysts to make sure we can complete your test in the time frame you need. A Priority TAT (usually 2-3 working days) costs $57 per sample and a Rush TAT (usually next working day) costs $76.
For paint analysis, we require approximately one square inch of dried paint. It is best to take the sample from an area where the paint is cracked, chipped or peeled away from the surface, as this loose paint is what is most likely to be ingested by young children. Place the sample in a clean, labeled ziplock bag or other small container that can be securely closed.
For soil analysis, gather about 1 tablespoon of soil. Place the sample in a clean, labeled ziplock bag or other small container that can be securely closed.
For dust analysis, the lab can provide, free of charge, a wipe and tube to collect dust from a 12×12 inch surface. Open the package, wipe the surface (you can create a 12×12 template frame if you like), then deposit the wipe in the small plastic tube.
If you have multiple samples, please identify and label them individually.
You’ll need to fill out a Sample Submission Form. Copies are available in our lobby or for download here: https://www.slh.wisc.edu/occupational/wohl/customer-service/sample-submission-forms/
When filling out the sample submission form, type in or legibly fill out the Bill To section with your name and address, a phone number and e-mail address. Results are usually reported through email unless you request differently. It’s not necessary but you may assign your own project name if you like (“cabin” or “grandma’s house” for example). Fill in the date the sample was taken if you know it. Check the box next to the turn-around-time you are requesting.
In the table section below that, give each sample an identifying name or number like “kitchen window sill” or “back garden,” and then enter “lead testing” under the Analysis Requested section. If you have multiple samples simply continue to enter them on the table as you did the first sample.
You can mail your sample to the lab, bring it to our front desk, or use our drop box.
Our mailing addresses for US mail and other delivery services are on the bottom of the Sample Submission Form. If you choose to bring the sample in to our office, our hours are Monday-Friday 7:45am to 4:30pm. A drop box is available by the door if you are here outside of office hours.
When we receive your sample we will create an account for you and analyze your sample(s). We generate invoices at the beginning of each month and so you should receive a bill for the testing after your results report has been received.
In these four samples, the top result number is the total lead found (8.5 micrograms for sample NY01). What is most important here is the amount of lead over the area wiped, however. Generally, this is a 1 square foot area. The first sample contains 23 micrograms per square foot (ug/ft2). The level of concern is 10 ug/ft2 for floors and 100 ug/ft2 for window sills. So depending on where this sample was taken, this area could require attention. The second two samples don’t have enough lead to reach the detection limit of 4.5 ug/ft2. The last sample, at 34 ug/ft2 may also indicate a problem depending on what surface it was taken from.
These samples contain 4.2%, .96% and .68% lead. These paint chips are of concern as the EPA considers paint to be contaminated with lead when the amount of exceeds 0.5%. In the past, levels of concern were even lower.
This soil sample has 260 micrograms of lead per gram of material. This equates to 260 parts per million (ppm). The EPA has established a limit of 400 ppm for lead in bare soils in play areas and 1,200 ppm for non-play areas for federally funded projects.
If you find lead in excess or near the regulatory limit for one or more of your samples, we recommend you contact your local city, county or state health department for advice on how to handle your situation.
In Madison, call the Health Department’s lead program at 608-266-5817 for assistance.
- Environmental Protection Agency National Lead Information Center: https://www.epa.gov/lead/forms/lead-hotline-national-lead-information-center
- National Safety Council Lead Poisoning Prevention Outreach Program: https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/safety-topics/other-poisons/lead
- Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lead-poisoning/symptoms-causes/syc-20354717
- Lead in garden soil. https://www.soils.org/discover-soils/story/lead-contamination-garden-soils and https://www.washington.edu/news/2016/02/02/risk-of-lead-poisoning-from-urban-gardening-is-low-new-study-finds/