Lead poisoning has serious health consequences in adults, including brain and kidney damage, and causes various developmental problems in children. That's why lead testing has become an important public health measure.
Commercially available tests for detecting lead in household paint sometimes give incorrect results, says Yi Lu of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. More sophisticated tests for the toxic metal can be more reliable, but they require expensive equipment and expertise.
In the June 4 Journal of the American Chemical Society, Lu and Juewen Liu, also of the University of Illinois, describe a reliable sensor that uses a simple color change to indicate the amount of lead in paint. The scientists devised the sensors from gold nanoparticles and tailor-made DNA strands.