Store-Bought Lead Tests: Are They Worth It?
Did you know that your tap water may contain potential threats even if your water supplier is in compliance with federal lead contamination regulations? This is more likely if your home has lead pipes, fixtures, or solder. So, how do you know if your water is contaminated?
A popular option is a home test for your tap water. Sounds like an easy way to get informed about the safety of your drinking water….right?
Maybe–but as we quickly learned, not at lead tests are created equal. We turned to Home Depot’s three top-selling lead tests for some more information.
Pro-Lab Water Testing Kit:
However, the devil is in details. The fine print discloses that the acronym stands for the “International Associations of Certified Indoor Air Consultants.” This was red flag #1, especially because the Pro-Lab Chief Executive James McDonell admitted that IAC2 “doesn’t have expertise in water testing.”
Red flag #2 cropped up when we learned of records revealing that Pro-Lab paid $20,000 to the Florida Attorney General in 2008 for misrepresenting their Lead Surface Test Kit as a trusted source for the EPA when no such evidence existed.
If you still aren’t concerned about the validity of Pro-Lab, we uncovered one more piece of information that might help make up your mind. While their website claims a number of health-related certifications, inspections, licenses, accreditations, and endorsements, no specifics are provided. Red flag #3.
We’re going to say, “three strikes and you’re out.”
H20 OK Plus Test Kit
We investigated the H20 OK Plus Test Kit next.
Claiming to deliver results quickly, this test promises to reveal the presence of lead within minutes of the user placing contaminant test strips into vials filled with tap water. While seemingly efficient, there are some glaring errors.
Firstly, there are no instructions on how to take the samples–which is particularly worrisome since the manufacturer’s statement asserts that their “tests provide approximate results only when used in strict accordance with instructions.” Yep, you need to strictly adhere to instructions that don’t exist.
A final challenge, and one that is noted on the Amazon.com reviews, is that it can be difficult to read the variance in color change on the test strip.The slightly different shades may have large implications–as the reviews note that “probably OK” and “maybe not OK” were practically indistinguishable. While problems reading the results can be a common issue on color test strips, it is exacerbated with the H20 OK Plus Test Kit due to the lack of instructions.
PurTest Lead Test
PurTest Lead Test was under scrutiny next.
Costing as low as $12, this kit claims it can “detect lead at very low levels, even below the EPA action level of 15 ppb.” It functions similarly to the H20 OK Plus Test, requiring users to place test strips into vials of tap water and promises results within minutes. Unfortunately, it shares some of the same pitfalls, too.
Similarly to H20 OK Plus Test Kit, PurTest notes that they are “a screening test and cannot be used to certify water as safe or unsafe for drinking” and provides only “approximate results.”
Another issue was the credibility of their certification. Although the box claims that it is “Laboratory Certified,” it remains unclear as to what this certification entails. While PurTest lists itself as a member of the Water Quality Association, there is also a lack of documentation as to whether they are backed by a WQA-certification.
In fact, the EPA does not endorse or even recommend test strips for detecting contaminants in water.
Double Check Before You Test
If we learned anything, it was that you cannot fully trust a home water-testing kit without doing your homework first. To make an informed decision you must compare and review test kits, as well as research their certifications and instructions. Additionally, because these home test-kits only provide information about a handful of contaminants, they do not paint a full picture of what’s in your water. Additionally, they will only detect contaminants above a relatively high “minimum detection level”–this means that any trace or near-detection limit concentration will not be recorded.
The good news is that our TapScore home water testing kit can solve these problems. Our national team of certified laboratory scientists, engineers, and health experts provide each customer with a personalized Tap Score Water Quality Report. For more information, email us at email@example.com.