K line X-ray fluorescence (KXRF) measurements of bone lead have emerged as a promising new biological marker of internal lead dose in epidemiological studies. Some disagreements exist, however, over the analysis of data at low levels of bone lead concentration. Here, the authors performed 30 serial measurements on each of three phantoms containing spiked amounts of lead. Chemical analysis of these phantoms using an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICPMS) indicated that the lead concentrations were 0.30, 5.77, and 11.57 mu g g-1. Analysis of the data was performed using several definitions of a minimum detectable limit (MDL) to recode data below the MDL, and using all of the continuous point estimates of lead concentration in the phantom (including negative estimates). The results demonstrate that the use of MDLs to recode low-level observations reduces the efficiency of the analysis and the ability to distinguish between the phantoms. Retaining all point estimates of KXRF-measured bone lead concentration provides less bias and greater efficiency in comparing the mean or median levels of bone lead of different populations.