View Full Version : Is there lead in automotive paints?

07-14-2010, 01:01 AM
Is there lead in automotive paints? (http://www.autogeekonline.net/forum/hot-topics-frequently-asked-questions/27124-there-lead-automotive-paints.html)

I recently started polishing a red 1985 Alfa Romeo Spider, and have noticed that as I polish, red dust comes off the paint.

Does anyone out there know (or can anyone please find out for me) if automotive paints contain lead? As I understand, lead has been banned from modern household paints since around 1978. Did the ban on lead in paints apply to automotive paints as well? Specifically, would anyone out there be able to tell me if my particular vehicle's paint contains lead?

The main reason this concerns me is that I have a young child at home, and I don't want to risk his well-being with my hobby.

07-14-2010, 01:12 AM
I would assume your paint to be single stage paint. The red dust is most likely a mixture of spent residue and paint.

07-14-2010, 07:00 AM
Lead or no lead you are removing microscopic particles from your vehicle. I would get a 3M respirator for yourself (like $20-$30). As far as your child keep them out of the garage untill you have completely cleaned it. To answer your question here is some outdated info...

This is from 2002 so things are different and probably even better by now.

Like architectural paint makers did 30 years ago, automotive paint companies want to take the trace amount of lead out of the primer layer. Although new paint lines are lead-free, Zahren notes that about 50% of the world's auto paint lines still use lead.
Paint makers are even employing nanoparticles. PPG is incorporating nanomaterials in clear coats being commercialized for the Mercedes-Benz. "We use nanoparticles in such a way that drastically cuts down the amount of dullness and cloudiness that develops when you get scratches from washing the car and other environmental factors," Zahren says.
PPG and equipment maker Behr Systems are developing a technology for the base coat that Zahren likens to an ink-jet printer. Called Dynamic FlexColors, the technology allows for color change on demand at the painting booth. "This is a process that takes a limited number of color bases and mixes them at the head to produce whatever color you want to dial in," he says.
Although FlexColors would require new painting equipment, the upside is that automakers could use it to charge premium prices for a semi-customized product. A novel painting technology like FlexColors isn't for every car company, but for those hesitant to invest in the new or the bold, the paint industry is ready with products that work with what they have.

Also found this off topic but very interesting chunk of the article........

The chemistry, Matheson says, is simple. Lower molecular weights are normally considered undesirable because properties like scratch and mar resistance usually decrease proportionally with molecular weight. But if a careful synthesis technique like catalytic chain transfer with cobalt complexes is used to retain the number of functional groups in the oligomer as molecular weight decreases, molecular weight is no longer a problem. "The insight here is to realize that low molecular weight itself is not bad, but a nonfunctional molecular weight is catastrophically bad," he says.
Matheson says the technology has been used in the lab to create coatings that are 88% solids. But at such high-solids levels, some minor modification to equipment is needed.
Functional oligomers are also used in DuPont's SupraShield technology, which was introduced last year at Ford Motor Co.'s Wixom, Mich., plant. Functional oligomers are additionally being used at a General Motors unit in Brazil. In contrast to Super Solids' environmental benefit, it's the improved scratch and mar resistance associated with the functional oligomers that makes SupraShield desirable.

07-14-2010, 07:04 AM
This is from the Australian Goverment website...

Lead alert facts: Lead in auto paints

Fact sheet
Department of the Environment and Heritage

Many auto paints, particularly those on older vehicles, are high in lead and can be a health hazard.
There have been cases of children suffering lead poisoning from playing in soil contaminated by auto paint dust.
Vintage car enthusiasts and amateur car restorers who strip and paint cars in their own garages or backyards could be unwittingly creating health risks for themselves, their families and neighbours.

The dangers of lead in auto paints

Lead enters the body when fine particles of lead in dust are swallowed, or when fumes or dust from synthetic enamels and lacquers from aerosols are breathed in. Dust generated by sanding and buffing is a major risk. It can settle in soil or household dust and become a constant health risk.
The use of high lead paints by commercial auto repairers and spray painters should be done in compliance with occupational health and safety regulations.
Lead in auto paints

Lead pigments

Lead colouring agents have been used for many years in auto enamels and lacquers. The highest levels of lead are found in the orange, red and yellow tones, where concentrations of more than 20% are common.
The pigments used in these highly coloured paints are based on lead sulphochromate and molybdate lead chromate. They are opaque and can be ground into fine particles, making them ideal for the high-gloss paints used on cars. They are also durable and resistant to ultra-violet light.
For older cars, the refinish industry can only provide accurate colour matches to vehicles that currently have paint containing lead on them by using the same lead-based pigments. If you are using these products you should be careful when sanding-down old paints and when spraying with new ones. Some older cars may also contain lead auto-body filler.
Lower concentrations of lead are present in the greens, browns and beiges.
Lead driers and anti-corrosives

Auto paints may also contain lead in the form of lead driers (at levels up to 0.5% by weight). They are used on trucks and commercials, and in anti-corrosive pigments in some primers used on new cars.
Aerosol cans

Many of the paints sold in aerosol cans as touch-up paints contain lead. These spray packs are used by car owners to camouflage small areas of damage.
A major problem with these spray paints is that people often apply them to objects other than their cars, for example, to household goods, furniture and buildings. They should be used only for their prime purpose, that is, touching-up cars.
Keep yourself and your family safe

It is very important to keep young children and pregnant women away from the work area and clothes, supplies, equipment, tools or containers. Do not eat or smoke in the work area. Store supplies containing lead, marked with safety information, away from children.
In the work area

Auto-paint work should be done in a properly equipped spray shop that has dust extraction, ventilation and water-wash spray booths.
At home, please follow these general precautions. Ensure your garage or work area can be:

adequately ventilated if using solvents
contained to prevent dust spreading
contained to prevent overspray from painting with aerosols
easily cleaned, this means that carpets are not recommended as floor coverings in workshops, plastic sheets are preferable.
Do not dry sand auto-paints containing lead, as it produces a lot of dust containing lead. It is safer to wet sand, and clean sanded surfaces afterwards.
Use a particulate or air-purifying respirator that meets Australian Standard 1716. It should be fitted with a P1 (dust) or P2 (dust and fumes) filter, both of which capture small particles of lead. It should be worn when removing or spraying auto paints. The respirators can be bought from major hardware stores. Replace the filter regularly.
Wear protective clothing and eye protection. Wash your work clothes separately and shower and wash your hair as soon as possible after finishing the day's work.
Stay clean

All surfaces in the work place should be regularly wet dusted, not dry brushed or swept. Clean walls and windows at least monthly. Use sugar soap from a hardware store or tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) from an industrial cleaner stockist. TSP should be mixed at the ratio of at least 25g of 5% TSP to each five litres of hot water.
Mop-down paved areas, garden furniture, verandahs and other places children can access after you have finished the job. This could help clean any dust that has escaped the workshop.
Vacuum only with cleaners equipped with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters. These are the only filters that can capture the small lead particles. Wet mop if you cannot obtain a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter.
Dispose of waste properly

Dispose of waste materials containing lead and water contaminated after wet mopping according to State/Territory or local government regulations. The water should be placed in a strong, securely sealed container. Do not pour water down drains or on to the garden.
Lead test kits

Small kits available from some paint wholesalers and hardware stores can test whether your paints contain lead. However, experience overseas suggests that many of these kits can give false negative and false positive results, although better results are possible with experience.
It can take up to 30 minutes for these tests to give a result for paints that contain lead chrome pigments.
Analytical laboratories can provide precise results. See the Yellow Pages (under Analysts or Environmental and/or Pollution Consultants).

Mike Phillips
07-14-2010, 07:27 AM
Very informative post Cory, thank you.

I'm going to put this in the "Hot Topics" and "Frequently Asked Questions" forum group.

:bowdown: :bowdown:

07-14-2010, 02:09 PM
Thank you very much for your informative posts, CEE DOG.
I was a little surprised to read that as of 2002, 50% of automotive paints still used lead. I think the risk of lead exposure is greatest with older single-stage paints where you actually see the pigment come off as dust on the vehicle and polishing pad, and much less with modern clear-coated paints.

Although I don't know for sure whether my particular vehicle was painted with a lead-based paint, I'm going to treat it as if it was. What that means for my old Alfa Romeo is that I won't be striving for perfection in the paint restoration. I'll do little if any additional polishing, and I'll apply glaze, sealant, and wax by hand rather than by machine, so as to minimize any further release of paint/lead residue.

06-08-2011, 12:18 PM
Update: I sent the same question to a government agency last year, and here is the reply they sent me:

"Your question regarding lead in automotive paint was referred to our office for response.

Our research indicates there is no ban or limit on the use of lead in automotive paint. Some manufacturers may make alternative lead-free products.

40 CFR Part 372, EPA's "Toxic Chemical Release reporting: Community Right-to-know" rule, requires paint manufacturers to list the lead (Pb) content in the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). This information sheet might be provided with the product at purchase, obtained from the retailer or can usually be obtained online at the manufacturer’s website.

Lead is commonly found in the components of auto paints - red and yellow pigments, drying agents, primers, etc. - in high quantities. I think that it would be safe to assume that a car built in 1985 probably has lead containing paint.

Title 17, California Code of Regulation prohibits any person from creating a lead hazard which probably would occur with paint preparation activities.

In the absence of obtaining information on the product, I would assume it contains lead and sanding, polishing activities could produce large quantities of lead dust. I would prevent any child from entering the work area. Working wet such as wet hand sanding would reduce the levels. We would also suggest that you obtain a HEPA shop vacuum to clean your work area after working.

Also, be aware that our office has identified cases of lead poisoning in children where the source of the poisoning has been from occupational exposure to a parent who brings the lead into the home after work. Work clothing should be removed before leaving the work area and person doing the work should shower.

Contact me if we can provide further information.


Paul Fitzmaurice, Chief
Lead Hazard Reduction Section
California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
MS 7503
850 Marina Bay Parkway, Bldg. P, 3rd Floor,
Richmond, CA 94804-6403

(510) 620-5637
(916) 449-5637 (Sac.)
(510) 620-5656-Fax

06-08-2011, 04:00 PM
Very informative post Cory, thank you.

I'm going to put this in the "Hot Topics" and "Frequently Asked Questions" forum group.

:bowdown: :bowdown:


I appreciate this info. Thanks CEE DOG!
Nice to have dedicated sites for referencing. Thanks Mike!

The wife oftentimes refers to my inherent disabilities...Before, I had to proclaim: "I have work-related issues/problems" (usually to no avail)...Now I have proof that my proclamations ring true!!! :D

Thanks again guys. :)