A new test method for measuring lead in components used in products such as apparel could offer a lower cost alternative to traditional lead testing for companies seeking to comply with ever more stringent product safety requirements.

The new ASTM Standard Test Method – ASTM F2853 – was formally approved earlier this month.

Its development is being managed by materials-analysis equipment firm XOS, which uses High Definition X-Ray Fluorescence (HDXRF) to detect the lower lead limits regulated under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

While the new test method applies to lead, HDXRF also measures other regulated heavy metals such as cadmium and antimony, in both paint and substrates, including plastics, metals and glass.

A key feature of HDXRF analysers is their ability to quantify toxic elements in both surface coatings and substrates of consumer products.

And unlike other techniques which require time-consuming paint removal and off-line processing, HDXRF offers rapid, non-destructive measurement for both coatings and substrates.

“This will benefit both manufacturers and consumers, by making it easier to accurately test for lead, resulting in improved compliance, safer products, and lower testing and manufacturing costs,” said Satbir Nayar, HDXRF product manager.

Since it became law in 2008, the CPSIA has regulated the amount of lead content permitted in products for children aged 12 years and under.

The current CPSIA standard for lead in the substrate of a children's product is 300 ppm, but from August 2011 the limit for lead in the substrate of a children's product will drop further to 100 ppm.