Toxic Metal Screening in Toys, Jewelry and Children's Products with the Handheld Thermo Scientific Niton XL3t XRF Analyzer

What do shipping and receiving departments, quality control departments, and legal departments have in common with the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local regulators, community activists, and your consumers?

The need to know, absolutely and positively whether toxic materials are included in consumer goods.

When you need to know what it’s made of quickly accurately and precisely, a Thermo Scientific Niton XL3t x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer is the answer.

Childhood Lead Poisoning

Increasing awareness that lead-based paint and dust isn’t the only source of childhood lead poisoning means that regulators are considering toys, plastics, jewellery, and other common household items as likely co-sources of lead in children’s blood. The CSPC is considering amending regulations to limit the amount of lead permitted in toys, jewellery, and other items intended for children to less than 600 parts per million. The EPA is reminding manufacturers and importers that they have an obligation to notify the agency if they have information suggesting that their products pose a lead-poisoning risk to children.

Lead poisoning prevention activists are increasingly targeting retailers as the final opportunity to test and remove lead-bearing items from the market. Insurers are threatening to drop coverage for importers who fail to implement a due diligence screening program, and the media always stands ready to announce a nationwide recall.

Lead is Still on the Market


The 2004 death of a child after his accidental ingestion of a lead locket included with a pair of sneakers prompted CLEARCorps, a US-based non-profit advocacy group, to conduct nationwide screening for lead content of children’s jewellery at the retail level. More than 8% of the tested items contained at least one component with a lead content higher than acceptable standards, with several items containing more than 60% lead.


The 2005 recall of millions of zipper tags for excessive levels of lead created a logistical and financial nightmare for the companies involved. Even the ink on silk-screened items can contain unacceptably high levels of lead.


From lunchboxes to action figures, wagon wheels to bathtub toys, plastic products containing lead as a coloring agent or stabilizer create a hazard for children. Just in Time manufacturing and smaller lot sizes increase the chances that one batch will contain dangerous amounts of lead, or can lead to mixed batches containing both safe and unsafe lead bearing items marked with the same lot number.

With today’s multi-vendor supply chains, it is nearly impossible to identify each  source of an individual product’s components. Consequently, sole reliance on material certifications is a recipe for disaster. To reduce their risk, stakeholders should implement material testing as part of their due diligence program.

The Thermo Scientific NITON Solution

Niton XRF analyzers are designed to quickly and reliably provide accurate metals analysis, and have become the worldwide standard for identifying and quantifying lead in houses, toys and jewelry. These very same tools are used each day to keep products containing toxic metals from reaching consumers of electrical and electronic goods in the European Union, and for compliance with "China RoHS," "Korea RoHS," and California's Proposition 65.

Handheld XRF analyzer

Figure 1. Handheld XRF analyzer

Niton analyzers supply fast, non-destructive analysis for lead, cadmium, and more than a dozen other elements of interest in parts per million (ppm), in virtually any substrate. The measurement is completed in seconds and is stored within an encrypted data stream for legally defensible results.

Inspectors can screen an entire store’s inventory in a matter of a few hours, catching problems before they are placed on shelves and, more importantly, before they end up in the hands of our children. Today, even unskilled employees are capable of turning out large amounts of quality testing data with the highest confidence in the integrity of the results.

Screening products with Thermo Fisher's handheld Niton XRF analyzers provides nearly instantaneous results and can greatly reduce the need for costly, time-consuming traditional laboratory testing. In an economic environment that is as sensitive to cost as our children are to traces of lead, the Niton XL3t offers a simple, efficient and cost-effective portable solution to your analysis needs.

  • Simple enough for the receiving crew: just pull the trigger. The Niton XL3t displays results on the integrated tilting touch-screen color display.
  • Stringent enough for your Quality Control staff, with low limits of detection; all results are reported to 95% confidence.
  • Strict enough for your legal department, with completely locked and encrypted data for a legally defensible documentation trail.

Optimized to Fit a Variety of Analysis Needs

As the longtime industry leader in handheld XRF analysis, we are uniquely capable of providing non-destructive testing solutions for manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers and regulators.

Thermo Scientific Niton XL3t analyzers combine fast, reliable, repeatable elemental analysis in a fully portable instrument, environmentally sealed against dust and moisture.

Optional Small Spot Analysis Feature

The Niton XL3t features an optional small-spot x-ray area that allows users to isolate and analyse individual areas as small as 3mm in diameter. The small-spot focus feature, combined with the first CCD camera and sample imaging system integrated into a handheld XRF analyzer, is ideal for positioning, analyzing, and recording the analytical results of small components – something previously only achievable with bench top XRF analyzers. The Niton XL3t displays a picture of the sample on the instrument screen and stores the image along with the analysis data for easy reference, data management, and data integrity.


Thermo Scientific Niton XL3t 700 Series analysers provide importers, manufacturers, retailers, distributors and regulators with real solutions to the problem of screening children’s toys and jewellery for lead, thereby complying with regulatory requirements while at the same time protecting children’s health.

They are ideal screening tools, from inspection of incoming materials through analysis of finished products. By providing real-time results, they allow users to quickly verify or refute the validity of supplier certifications. Since the XRF analysis technique is non-destructive, selected samples can subsequently be analyzed using traditional lab techniques for confirmatory analysis, or when necessary to resolve vendor disputes. Increased testing permits manufacturers, distributors and retailers to “trust buy verify,” translating info better compliance at lower cost than other available methods.


This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Thermo Fisher Scientific.

For more information on this source, please visit Thermo Scientific Portable Analyzers for Material ID.


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