Technology ID

Handwipe Disclosing Method for Detecting the Presence of Lead

Lead Inventor
Esswein, Eric (CDC)
Boeniger, Mark (CDC)
Ashley, Kevin (CDC)
Research Materials
Occupational Safety and Health
Therapeutic Areas
Infectious Disease
Development Stages
Pre-Clinical (in vitro)
Lead IC
Lead (Pb) exposure can cause serious health concerns including abdominal pain, headaches, loss of appetite, memory loss, weakness, and other symptoms. Lead residues on human skin, especially on the hands of workers can be a significant health risk since such residues may be ingested during normal activities (e.g. eating, drinking, and smoking). A key component to reducing lead exposure is being able to identify areas of lead contamination.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers developed a method to detect lead on surfaces, including skin, using a handwipe system and a chemical test to effect a color change if lead is present. A handwipe is used to collect any lead contamination on the surface. Then the lead is solubilized with an aqueous acid solution and treated with rhodizonate or sulfide anions. When lead is detected, the color changes from pink to red (when rhodizonate anions are used) or from brown to black (where sulfide anions are used).

This invention can be used to test surfaces including human skin, floors, walls, windowsills, etc. It can be used to inform employers and workers on potential lead contamination, as well as evaluate lead removal efforts. This technology can also be used in conjunction with another CDC NIOSH invention involving wipes and methods for removal of lead. Combined, these two technologies can “close the loop” by both detecting and decontaminating skin and other surfaces contaminated with lead.

Commercial Applications
  • Testing potentially contaminated surfaces such as skin, floors, walls, windowsills, etc., for lead
  • Informing employers and workers on potential lead contamination and exposure
  • Educating potentially exposed individuals about their lead exposure and effectiveness of lead removal methods
  • Evaluating effectiveness of lead removal from surfaces in workplaces, homes, hospitals, and schools
  • Confirming hand/skin/shoe/clothing washing effectiveness of lead removal for military, law enforcement, and target range personnel
  • Part of a kit for detecting and removing lead from a surface (when combined with CDC NIOSH’s wipes and methods for removing lead and other metal contamination from surfaces technology (HHS Reference Number E-221-2013-0))
Competitive Advantages
  • Safe for use on skin
  • Quick and easy to use
  • -
  • Portable and can be used during field evaluations
  • Can be used wherever lead is present
  • Simple color change readout indicates the presence of lead on a surface
  • Lead concentration can be inferred by degree of color shift
  • Can be used to guide and evaluate lead removal methods
Licensing Contact:
Mitzelfelt, Jeremiah