glass of water

Hi all…as many of you may be aware, the former Governor of Michigan and eight others were recently charged in association with the Flint water crisis. Since the problem first come to light in late 2014, there have been a substantial number of research articles written on event itself as well as more generally in the field of lead and Legionella contamination in drinking water. One such article by a well known group of researchers in the area has just been published. It is entitled “Challenges of Detecting Lead in Drinking Water Using at-Home Test” and “demonstrates the critical weaknesses of some test kits, such as overestimation of lead concentrations and detection limits that exceed a drinking water-relevant range for a majority of color-based test kits. Binary strips correctly indicated whether dissolved lead concentrations were above the 15 µg/L threshold in 93% of the tests in this study, but failure to detect particulate lead was a weakness of the binary strips.” They point out that “there is currently no certification authority to ensure accuracy of at-home lead in water test kits. In light of this, the sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of all test kits needs to be verified under real-world conditions.”


Challenges of Detecting Lead in Drinking Water Using at-Home Test

Rebecca Kriss, Kelsey J. Pieper, Jeffrey Parks, and Marc A. Edwards

Environmental Science & TechnologyArticle ASAP Jan 11, 2021

DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.0c07614


“Lead in drinking water remains a significant human health risk. At-home lead in water test kits could provide consumers with a convenient and affordable option to evaluate this risk, but their accuracy and reliability is uncertain. This study examined the ability of at-home lead test kits to detect varying concentrations of dissolved and particulate lead in drinking water. Sixteen brands representing four test kit types (binary color, binary strip, colorimetric vial, and color strip) were identified. Most kits (12 of 16 brands) were not suitable for drinking water analysis, with lead detection limits of 5–20 mg/L. Binary strips detected dissolved lead at drinking water-relevant levels but failed to detect particulate lead. Household acids (lemon juice and vinegar) improved the strip’s ability to detect lead by dissolving some of the lead particulates to the point soluble lead exceeded 15 µg/L. These results illustrate the applications of at-home testing kits for drinking water analysis, highlight limitations and areas for possible improvement, and put forth a testing protocol by which new at-home lead test kits can be judged.”

The Supporting Information is available free of charge at