Get the Lead Out

Get the Lead Out:  Development and validation of a field screening test for leaded paint

Heidi Beidinger, Department of Biology

Marya Lieberman, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Leaded paint is a major source of lead exposure to toddlers, who often chew painted surfaces, eat paint chips, or lick leaded paint dust from their hands. The problem is global, and unlike some global problems, extends across the US. Finding leaded paint in spaces occupied by small children is important for controlling and mitigating lead exposure.  Commercially available home screening tests are expensive and show false positive or negative results with dark paint colors.

In this project, the student will develop and validate a quick field test for leaded paint that works on any paint color and costs less than $1. The analytical metrics of the field test and some commercially available test kits will be compared using standard reference materials in a laboratory validation study.  In addition to developing the paper card, the student will spend 20 hr/week conducting residential lead screening in South Bend homes occupied by families who have at least one child with clinical signs of lead poisoning, and carrying out ICP analysis of the home samples.  Your results will help us find out how children in South Bend are being exposed to lead so the families and community can take action.  

The project will combine chemistry and design, so we are seeking a student who has taken classes in analytical chemistry, who is self-directed, artistic, and likes to tinker.  Ability to speak Spanish and work as part of a team will be a plus.