- Atomic absorption spectrometry and x-ray fluorescence have been used to determine the lead content of metatarsal and tibia bone samples. For a range of bone lead levels from 6.5 to 83 micrograms g-1 of ashed bone there is no evidence of a systematic difference between the two techniques of more than 1 microgram g-1. There is, however, some evidence that random differences between the two in vitro analyses applied to the same bone sample are larger than can be accounted for by known measurement uncertainties. Variations in bone composition could account for these differences. Because the x-ray fluorescence technique is applied in an identical way to in vivo analysis, it is concluded that the uncertainties in in vivo measurements are small.