Question: How many items can you test in an hour?
As a preface, it is very important to state that the testing I do at events (or sometimes in one-on-one consultations) is quite different in scope than the testing that I do in conjunction with the results I report on my blog.
Testing reported on the blog
- When I test consumer goods and report the results on the Lead Safe Mama blog, I often spend 2 or 3 hours just testing one item (depending on how complex that item is / how many components it has).
- Sometimes, a complex item (like a doll with many different colors of paints, or multiple types of substrates...or a box of crayons – which necessitates testing each color crayon multiple times to draw an accurate conclusion) can take me a full 8-hour day to test. With this testing, I test each color (each paint, each substrate, each component) multiple times for one to three minutes per component to make sure the results I report on the blog are replicable and as accurate as possible.
“Speed testing” —
aka: testing as much as possible as quickly as possible
- An appropriate XRF instrument (one specifically designed and configured to test consumer goods) can give a pass/fail reading for metals (Lead, Cadmium, Gold, Silver, Nickel, Iron, Arsenic, etc.) in as little as 10 seconds (sometimes even less time, depending on the metals content).
- In in-person sessions with me – for events or consultations when I use an XRF instrument – families / clients/ event attendees usually want to “get their money’s worth”, so the focus of testing I do in-person with clients (and at public and private events) is normally to qualitatively screen/evaluate as many things as possible as quickly as possible (while still being as accurate as possible within the parameters dictated by testing things quickly).
- This is not to say that the “speed testing” done in events is not replicable and accurate; it is — but with quicker tests the margin of error is normally much higher, meaning the reported level is not necessarily as quantitatively specific as they might be if the same items are tested for a longer duration per component.
40 to 60 items per hour can be tested with “speed testing”
- With those considerations stated, for each 1/2 hour of an event or in-person consultation, I can generally “speed test” about 20 things, and sometimes more, sometimes fewer (sometimes as many as 30 or 40 – depending on how complex or simple the items are, and also depending on whether or not I have tested the exact item or items from that same brand before!)
- So for an hour that means you can reasonably expect that I can test about 40 simple things, and in three hours about 120 simple things.
- Depending on the items chosen, and the extent of testing required for each item, the range might extend to as many as 60 to 80 simple (non-complex) items in an hour, so possibly 180 to 240 tests in a 3-hour visit or event. [Doing 240 tests in 3 hours is unlikely, however (as it equates to testing more than one item per minute) — so I don’t want to get your hopes up!]
- With the above considerations, as a rule I suggest that folks have 20 to 30 items ready to be tested for each half-hour (40 to 60 per scheduled hour.) I will then do my best to test as many of those items as possible in the time available!
An example of a simple vs. a complex test
- A “simple” thing is an item like a dinner plate. The reason it is “simple” is because I can quickly test the center of the food surface of the plate (in a 10- or 20-second test) and determine if there is Lead [and other metallic toxicants like Cadmium, Arsenic, Mercury, etc.] or not, as well as the approximate levels. IF the first test on the food surface of a plate is positive for Lead, we normally move on to the next item – as it is not necessary to test each color or design element in detail.
- IF that dish is a BRAND NEW, BRAND NAME item – and you want to use the information you learn from our visit to return the product and get a refund or replacement, I may do multiple three-minute tests on that dish – to make sure you get the most complete and accurate information for your follow-up with a manufacturer or vendor – which could mean we agree to allocate 6 to 10 minutes for testing just one single dish.
- That’s the range of testing that is possible on a simple item during an in-person visit or event.
Cost savings + informative!
- Even if “only” 40 items per hour are “speed tested”, you get a lot more information (to help you make decisions for your family) than if you paid for testing done at a lab. For context: to get a single item lab tested, companies might have a turn-around time of 7-10 days or longer, and charge you $75 to $300 per item — or more, depending on how complex the item is [at the higher end, they will also often generate a multiple-page official written report for each item*], so the service I provide is a really cost-effective way to quickly screen a lot of items from your home in one sitting.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: In most cases I do not provide a written report of any kind with the consumer goods testing I do at events or in private consultations. I do encourage participants to bring a notepad, and write down the results for items tested, so they can refer to them later if they have questions. Some clients opt for using color-coded sticky notes (red for Leaded, green for Lead-free, and purple for positive for some other metal – for example) and put a sticky note on each item tested, along with facts they want to remember (like how much Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic, Antimony or Mercury is found.)
Additional note: To make the testing most efficient (with me or with anyone else you might hire for this sort of work) it is best to collect everything (as much as possible) on one dining table or kitchen counter – so we can easily zoom from item to item (testing as much as possible within the allocated time – because it is all mostly within reach). Before I begin testing the items that have been set aside I normally do a walkthrough of the client’s home or place of business to assess larger items (like furniture and paintings) that are not small enough to be “collected” on the dining table!
What you can do to prepare for an event or home consultation involving consumer goods XRF testing
I encourage everyone who hires me for a private testing event (or who plans on bringing things to a public testing event with me or any public agency) to take some time to review the index of this blog and a few other key posts, so they have an idea of things that have already been tested – and they can focus on making the most of their time by primarily bringing things for which they cannot find examples on the blog.
- Here’s the link to the Index.
- Here’s the link to a list of items that I recommend having tested via XRF technology.
- Here’s a post that discusses items that can be tested using home test kits.
- Here’s a post that discusses the different testing methodologies I use in my work.
- If you have a question about a specific item, and would like to look it up on the blog to see if I have tested it, I encourage you to watch this video.
- This menu of quick buttons for specific categories of posts here on the blog might be helpful as well.
- Here’s a link to a post that answers questions about the safety of testing consumer goods with an XRF instrument.
Consider getting yourself tested before our visit, too!
Many Lead Safe Mama clients opt to go to their doctor and have heavy metals testing done before our visit. A metals panel (a test showing all metals detected in your body) done with urine, hair, and/or blood testing can help inform what we look for in a one-on-one consultation. For example, if your metals panel shows a high level of Barium, or Antimony present in your body, we can keep an eye out for the presence of Barium or Antimony in items we test; if we find items in your home that are high in these metals (metals that your doctor may have noted as concerning), you can at least eliminate those items from your daily routine to see if your body burden levels of those metals are later reduced (as can be demonstrated with subsequent testing – a month or more after you remove these items from your daily routine) as a result of those choices. You can read more about that on this post.
Think of one-on-one Lead Safe Mama consultations as a “private class” in how to help you protect your family and community from toxicants in their environment.
Hiring Lead Safe Mama for a home consultation or public or private event (involving XRF testing of consumer goods) is in a way similar to a “Tupperware party” — but instead of buying stuff at the end, you usually end up getting rid of a bunch of stuff (if we find things of yours that are possible toxicant exposure sources that you may want to get rid of).
At public and private Lead Safe Mama events that have consumer goods testing as a component, I not only take the time to identify potentially toxic consumer goods, I also spend some time talking about safer alternatives for that particular item or type of item — specifically, what to look for in purchasing a replacement item (and what to avoid).
A Lead Safe Mama home consultation or testing party is basically a personalized “crash course” in protecting your family from potential exposure to toxicants commonly found in consumer goods. In fact doctors, nurses, educators, contractors and other professionals often get CEUs (continuing education credits) to come hear me speak at public events (often hosted by State or City health departments) – so in these visits, you benefit from learning the same information, in a much more intimate and personal forum.
During our visit I may invite you to contribute an item for further testing and reporting on the blog.
Many of the consumer goods posted on the Lead Safe Mama blog (with their XRF test results) are items I came across at an event or home consultation. If, in working with you, I find that you have a particularly interesting example of something I don’t have represented yet on the blog (and if that item is not something you intend to keep given it is positive for unsafe levels of heavy metals), I may give you an opportunity to donate it to “the cause” if you wish (so I can take it with me to do more extensive testing on and to report on in detail on the blog). In this way your private consultation or public event has a greater impact in helping other families make their homes safer too!
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.