Lead Detection in Food, Medicinal, and Ceremonial Items Using a Portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Instrument

The authors evaluated a Niton XLp303A X-ray fluorescence (XRF) instrument, used to identify lead hazards in housing, to determine its effectiveness to screen food, medicinal, and ceremonial items during lead poisoning investigations. Fifty-eight suspect exposure items were tested for lead by XRF and then sent to the laboratory for confirmation. A lead content cut-point of 10 parts per million (ppm; the lower level at which the XRF model could reliably determine the presence of lead) was used to evaluate the results. The Niton consistently identified the presence of lead spectra emissions and gave quantitative readings above 10 ppm for the nine samples with lead content that exceeded 10 ppm in laboratory testing. The authors' study suggests that the Niton XLp303A is an effective screening method for food and similar items with lead content ≥10 ppm, provided the operator is trained to identify lead spectra. Rapid, on-site identification of lead exposure sources allows an investigator to inform the family of immediate steps they can take to decrease their child's lead exposure.

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