Superfund Research Program
Low-cost, Easy-to-use Test for Determining Lead Concentration in Drinking Water
Project Leader: Lihua Zhang
Grant Number: R43ES028633
Funding Period: Phase I: August 2017 - May 2018
- Program Links
High levels of lead in drinking water are a serious health concern. Lead is most often introduced into drinking water from service pipes that have corroded, particularly in areas where the water is highly acidic or has a low mineral count. Lead is a toxic heavy metal that is harmful to human health, even at low exposure levels, and can accumulate in soft tissue and bones over time and damage the nervous system. Children are especially vulnerable to its effects. Because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, it can easily go undetected.
The goal of this project is to develop an inexpensive, reliable, easy-to-use test kit to measure levels of lead in tap water in homes, schools, and other public places, so that people can test their tap water more frequently and reduce their risk of lead poisoning.
In Phase I, the research team developed a lateral flow assay based on colorimetric detection, wherein the test strip changes color when it is exposed to tap water containing varying levels of lead ions (Pb2+). The assay recorded satisfactory sensitivity levels of detection to lead down to 15 ppb, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency action level, and an innovative method of combining DNAzyme with nanomaterials resulted in high specificity with low false positives. Overall, this preliminary assay formulation demonstrated good results when tested with tap water in the lab. Although the signals were weaker than that with a distilled water sample, the research team observed a clear signal difference between positive and negative samples.