How it works: SciAps X-550 Pb for residential lead paint

March 28, 2022

Finally, a lead paint analyzer that is both safe and accurate.

Meet the the first and only non-isotope instrument ever to hold a PCS at all three levels of 1.0, 0.7 and 0.5 mg/cm2 — and no inconclusive tests.

The new standard for residential lead paint analysis

Fastest tests: Test in 2-6 seconds, and never lose speed over time. Quick Mode preferred for PCS types of testing, and Timed Mode for industrial lead paint testing.

Highest levels of accuracy: No substrate corrections, no inconclusive ranges or tests, even for action levels as low as 0.5 mg/cm2 (Rh anode).

No radioactive isotope: Greatly reduces the burden of owning and controlling radioactive materials and costly replacement.

How did we do it?

SciAps X-550 Pb eliminates the regulatory, safety, and financial burden associated with radioactive sources in residential lead paint testing, with a HUD-published EPA Performance Characteristic Sheet showing no inconclusive tests at 1.0, 0.7, and 0.5 mg/cm2.

X-ray tube versus isotopes

Traditional isotope-based instruments easily excite K shell X-ray lines, which are very penetrating. These instruments reliably test for residential lead paint even when it’s buried under 40-50 years of non-lead paint layered on top. But the burden of owning and operating these instruments is significant.

In search of a more cost-effective alternative with far lesser regulatory burden, the SciAps XRF technology team revisited prior industry research.  There is a more energetic band of X-rays (and thus more penetrating) than the traditional L-shell X-ray lines used by early Cd-109 isotope-based units. These X-ray bands could not be measured reliably from the isotope and detector technologies of the mid 1990s through late 2010 and thus were not used for lead paint detection. These X-ray bands were too weak to be measured using the PiN diode detector technology of the time, and too weak to be adequately excited by radioactive isotopes. Moreover, the energy resolution of PiN diode detectors was not good enough to resolve these lead X-ray emissions from commonly occurring elements in lead paint materials.

By 2012 and later, the viable combination of X-ray tube technology and a new silicon detector technology became commercially available. The X-ray tube provided a tunable excitation source that could selectively excite these higher energy lead X-ray bands for greater penetrating power. The new detection technology offered both a substantially lower background and a superior energy resolution, allowing these less accessible lead X-rays to be produced and measured even at lead loading < 0.01 mg/cm2.

The result has been a lightweight, fast XRF analyzer with published Performance Characteristic Sheets (PCS) at inconclusive-free action levels of 0.5, 0.7 and 1.0 mg/cm2.  The PCS testing times range from 2-6 seconds, and because there’s no isotopes, those test times are valid for the life of the analyzer.

SciAps then went about a rigorous field testing program. We took the XRF devices to old properties in the Midwest, Boston, Baltimore and other locations to validate the performance on the thickest paint histories in the country. After much testing, we then completed our completely independent testing at the HUD/MRI archives to obtain the PCS. It is worth noting that because the SciAps device does not contain a radioactive isotope, all of the PCS testing was done by the PCS contractor, rather than company-compensated lead paint inspectors. So the PCS testing was completely independent of SciAps users.

Are X-ray tubes rugged enough for lead paint testing?

Yes. X-ray tubes have been used in other handheld applications for more than a decade. SciAps ships thousands of X-ray tube devices per year into oil/gas, scrap metal recycling, military, and law enforcement applications. In the field, SciAps ​analyzers have been dropped from 30-foot scaffolds without tube damage, and the tube is rated to survive a minimum of a 5-foot drop test.

The SciAps Lead Paint Advantage


Most accurate—no lab testing

Analyzers must accurately identify samples as positive or negative according to the Federal Action Level for lead paint, which is 1.0 milligrams of lead per square centimeter. SciAps X-550 Pb analyzer is the first non-isotope XRF to achieve a threshold rating on the PCS. No false positives. No false negatives. No inconclusive tests.SciAps XRF users will never need to collect a sample—likely taking a chunk out of the test surface, too—and send it to a lab to find out whether it's positive or negative for lead. Having “no inconclusive range” means that even if a sample were at .99 milligrams of lead per square centimeter, SciAps X-550 Pb would identify the sample as negative. It’s crucial to get that reading in the field and not have to wait for lab results.


Reduced regulatory and safety burden

With SciAps X-550 Pb, users won’t have to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to use a device with a radioactive isotope or deal with the additional headaches that go along with owning one. Until now, the only option people have had is to use, store, and transport radioactive isotope units. If an isotope unit is lost, it’s a big deal because a radioactive source could find its way into the wrong hands. What’s more, a radioactive source can’t be turned off. It’s constantly emitting radiation. The regulatory burden is high. Users need to track its use, keep logs of every place it’s been, and perform leak testing every six months to make sure the isotope is not leaking radioactive material. Users could not transport units freely from state to state without permission.


Financial advantages to non-radioactive

Analyzers that use radioactive sources need to replace the isotope every year and a half, which costs more than $3,500 for each replacement. An instrument using a cobalt-57 isotope will lose half its strength every 9 months. That means, a 10-second test with a new Co-57 unit will become a 20-second test in 9 months, and a 40-second test in 18 months, which is really slow. So, users of that unit will be replacing their radioactive source every 18 months or sooner.SciAps is offering a five-year warranty on the X-550 Pb X-ray tube. Our customers won’t have any source replacement costs for five years, which will save a typical user at least $10,500.

Simply put: No radioactive material. Fewer travel restrictions. No licensing. No endless paperwork. No leak testing. Factor in all the operating costs of changing the isotope, all the regulatory costs, and all the hassles, and SciAps X-550 Pb saves much more than money in the long run. And, users will experience the same analysis speed every day they go to work.

What else? Lead in soils, alloys, mining, RoHS

Two types of anodes for more lead applications

The X-550 Pb is available with either a rhodium X-ray tube anode or gold X-ray tube anode, depending on complementary applications that the owner might want to add to the unit.

For customers who need to perform soil testing, RoHS, soil testing, or other environmental type applications, the gold anode will produce the best performance on elements such as cadmium, barium, tin, silver, and antimony. Customers will be able to add these capabilities to a lead paint unit.The rhodium unit will be used by customers who also typically perform alloy testing or geochemistry applications.

X-550 Pb includes the Lead Paint App based on published PCS standard. Optional apps: Lead in Soil, Alloy, Geochem (Mining), Empirical, Environmental Metals. Coming soon: Lead in dust wipes and air filters (NIOSH 7702).

What about industrial lead paint?

Add the Industrial Lead Paint app to any SciAps XRF

Industrial lead paint analyzers have been around for a while, but in low-contact areas where children will not be present, the primary concern is regulating airborne lead.For example, in settings such as refineries, bridges, storage tanks, chemical plants, and cutting and maintenance work, OSHA requires assessment of how much lead dust a technician who might be cutting up a pipe is putting into the air. If there’s no lead in the paint, there won’t be any airborne lead exposure; if they get a positive reading, the exact amount of lead present is used to determine the precautions required.Any of SciAps X-500 Series XRF units may optionally be equipped with Industrial Lead Paint app, a fast screening method for lead paint in industrial settings as part of OSHA compliance.

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