Lead Paint: We’ve Got You Covered

Filed by Carmen Drahl

I have vivid memories of visiting my great-grandma when I was a wee one. If I forgot to bring a book or a toy to entertain myself, I’d get to play with a box of toys that probably belonged to my great uncles, which contained blocks and toy soldiers. Now, keep in mind that these were the old-school toy soldiers, the kind that most likely contained lead. Delicious, delicious lead. But I digress.

The recent spate of toy recalls got me wondering whether any new research is going on in the lead paint detection arena. According to EPA, paint in houses can be analyzed by a portable X-ray fluorescence analyzer. Unfortunately, this technique can be inaccurate depending on the composition and curvature of walls.

A quick search of the meeting program turns up a presentation and a poster that ought to benefit from good timing. A talk will be held by the Division of Inorganic Chemistry Sunday at 3:30 PM about new sensors that can accurately detect low levels of Pb(II) in paint. The sensors, developed by the Lu group at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, are made with nucleic acids that are engineered to bind specific metal ions or organic molecules. Slap on some gold nanoparticles to trigger the output, and they’re off to the races. Maybe someone could field-test the technology on the toys C&EN digs up at the tchotchke roundup. Any takers?

Just in case Salem State College students are curious, Christine MacTaylor’s lab has analyzed paint samples from across campus using flame atomic absorption, a method used by EPA-accredited labs.

MacTaylor’s group will present the results in a Chemical Education Division poster session on Monday. That big flame was always a hit with classmates in my analytical chem class back in college. I bet MacTaylor has no problems recruiting students to work on that project.

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