2004 Handwipe method for detecting lead Midwest

Award Year 

Lead poisoning is a global problem that hassignificant public health and occupationalhealth consequences. Worldwide, 240 millionpeople are estimated to have health risks fromlead poisoning, and lead is the number oneenvironmental health hazard to children. From aU.S. public health perspective, about 900,000children from ages 1 to 5 have a blood-leadlevel of concern. In addition, occupationalexposure to lead is one of the most commonoverexposures found in U.S. industry and aleading cause of workplace illness. The U.S.Occupational (more) Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) deemed that reducing occupationallead exposure is a priority.The technology developed by the NationalInstitute for Occupational Safety and Health(NIOSH) team involves having a person wipetheir hands or a surface suspected of beingcontaminated with lead. The presence of lead isthen disclosed by applying three sprays of anextraction solution, followed by two sprays of adisclosing solution. The method will identifylead in the tens of millionths of a gram. If lead ispresent, a reddish-purple color results; if not,the wipe remains yellow. The red color isintended to suggest to the user: “Stop! If it’sred, there’s lead!”Reducing lead exposure involves awareness oflead contamination, especially lead dust onhands and other skin surfaces, which is aningestion hazard, a primary route of leadexposure. NIOSH developed the lead handwipeas a cost-effective way to significantly reducelead exposure in workers and the general publicthrough risk awareness. The technology isnovel, sensitive, and specific. The results ofthe test are immediate: a color change to redindicates the presence of lead.The technology was awarded U.S. Patent6,248,593 and is licensed to SKC, Inc., a that is a global leader in samplingtechnologies. The company has since created aweb site for this technology (, and theproduct is selling well.Through its successful technology transfer toSKC, this invention will now help industriesmeet OSHA’s goal of reducing occupationallead exposure and help the U.S. Public HealthService meet its Healthy People 2010 goal—toreduce the number of persons with elevatedblood-lead levels to zero by the year 2010. Thisinvention won a 2003 FLC Southeast RegionExcellence in Technology Transfer Award as anoutstanding technology that has significantpotential to improve the quality of life. (less)