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

New York, NY, July 11, 2024

TAUW, 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. 

“If we can provide a set of tools for residents and local governments to identify a source of lead pollution in a quick and affordable manner, the exposure risk becomes tangible,” says Ilona van der Kroef with TAUW, “and risk mitigation steps can be taken sooner.”

The best available data from Indian institutions and others suggest that half of all children in the country have harmful levels of lead in their blood. Lead exposure results in decreased IQ, behavioral problems, cardiovascular damage, stunted growth, and even premature death. The consequences to public health and economic development are staggering.

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 that 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.  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.

Lukas Helmbrecht, Co-Founder and CEO at Lumetallix explains, “We are working to enhance reactivity for more consistent results at low concentrations and to benchmark sensitivity on various soil samples.”

“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.


About the Consortium

TAUW:  TAUW is a European consultancy firm with a strong position in environmental advice and making sustainability feasible. With almost 1,400 dedicated professionals, TAUW shapes a vital living environment by offering impactful solutions and combining strong expertise with valuable partnerships. This has been in our DNA ever since the foundation of TAUW in October 1928 in the Netherlands. TAUW has over 40 years of experience as an advisor in the field of sustainable soil and land management. As a cutting-edge consultant with extensive expertise in soil and subsurface issues, more than 350 consultants and engineers work fulltime on addressing societal challenges related to soil pollution. It’s not just a daily job, it’s… a living ambition.

Pure Earth: Established in 1999, Pure Earth is a pioneer in developing evidence-based solutions to mercury and lead pollution and poisoning.  Guided by our commitment to transparency, collaboration, impact measurement and technical excellence, Pure Earth works with partners around the world to sustainably address the root causes of pollution.  We partner with governments, civil society, communities and industry to identify and implement solutions that stop toxic exposures, protect health, and restore environments. Learn more at


Lumetallix: Lumetallix is a company dedicated to developing innovative and accessible rapid testing solutions for environmental concerns. The company’s flagship product, Lumetallix Instant Lead Test Kit, empowers individuals and communities to quickly and accurately detect lead contamination in their homes and environments.  Learn more at


Contacts for media inquiries:

Pure Earth: Angela Bernhardt, [email protected]

Lumetallix:  Xander Terpstra CCO & Partner, [email protected]

TAUW: Ilona van der Kroef MSc., Consultant Hazardous Waste and Contaminated Sites, [email protected]