Lessons Learned from Surface Wipe Sampling for Lead in Three Workplaces

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Insights to protect workers and their families from exposure to lead. 

Surface wipe sampling in the occupational environment is a technique widely used by industrial hygienists. Although several organizations have standards for sampling lead and other metals, uncertainty still exists when trying to determine an appropriate wipe sampling strategy and how to interpret sampling results.

Diana Ceballos, our Visiting Scientist for Chemicals and Health, worked with investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Health Hazard Evaluation Program, on this study. NIOSH has  used surface wipe sampling as part of their exposure assessment sampling strategies in a wide range of workplaces.

This manuscript discusses wipe sampling for measuring lead on surfaces in three facilities: (1) a battery recycling facility, (2) a firing range and gun store, and (3) an electronic scrap recycling facility.


We summarize our findings from the facilities and what we learned by integrating wipe sampling into our sampling plan. Wiping sampling demonstrated lead in non-production surfaces in all three workplaces and that the potential that employees were taking lead home to their families existed. We also found that the presence of metals such as tin can interfere with the colorimetric results. We also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of colorimetric analysis of surface wipe samples and the challenges we faced when interpreting wipe sampling results.

Read the study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene

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