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Researchers studied lead detection technologies to recommend affordable methods for under-resourced communities in India and beyond

New White Paper - Evaluating Low-Cost Lead Detection Methods

The TAUW Foundation, Pure Earth, and Lumetallix evaluated over a dozen methods to detect lead in soil to identify low-cost tools to scale up efforts to prevent lead exposure and poisoning.  Current detection methods, such as handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzers, though effective, are very expensive, require specialized training, thus limiting their accessibility.

The project report, The Assessment Of Lead Detection Methods In Tamil Nadu India And Beyond, details the investigation beginning with an evaluation of 13 potential low-cost lead detection methods, selecting four for further testing: ferric ferrocyanide (Prussian Blue), sodium rhodizonate, RGB Image Recognition, and Lumetallix. Following laboratory and field tests, two methods, sodium rhodizonate and Lumetallix, showed promise and were subjected to comprehensive field trials in Tamil Nadu.

After extensive testing, the research team concluded when developing lead poisoning prevention programs with community involvement, a combination of the three techniques—sodium rhodizonate, Lumetallix, and handheld XRF analyzer or conventional laboratory analyses—should be viewed as complementary.

Both sodium rhodizonate and Lumetallix could be utilized by communities to pre-screen an area. The Lumetallix test kit offers a practical, affordable and fast solution for large-scale screening, making it a valuable tool for initial mapping and identification of lead pollution hotspots.  While the sodium rhodizonate test, although more time consuming, provides fewer tests, but with a more definitive indication of soil lead levels above a threshold of concern.

“Further research is needed to validate these methods across different soil types and contamination sources,” says Emily Nash, Consulting Researcher for Pure Earth. “Collaboration with local communities and authorities will be crucial in deploying these technologies effectively.”

To learn more, watch the research team as they trial the range of methods on-site in Vellore, Tamil Nadu.