Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

August, 2002

Do Automobile Paints Contain Lead?

Q. My son is refinishing his 1978 Toyota Landcruiser. He has begun to dry sand the body, and I'm concerned that the paint, which is the original paint, might be lead-based. I called Toyota's information hotline, but they didn't have any information that far back. Would you have any idea whether the paint probably is or isn't lead-based?

A. Your concern is legitimate and you are doing the right thing to check out the lead issue. In general, reds, yellows, oranges and other colors mixed from these three often contained lead prior to the late 1970's. If none of the colors on the Toyota are those that I've mentioned, the possibility that there is lead in the paint diminishes.

Since Toyota can't tell you about the ingredients in their paints in the 1970s you do have another alternative. You can take a small sample of the paint dust to a local analytical chemical lab (which you can find in your local Yellow Pages) and have them test is for lead and chromates. The lab test should not cost you an arm and a leg, since it is relatively easy for the lab to perform these tests. If you don't find a lab in your area, I can assist you as I work with a local lab that can perform these tests.

To further educate yourself on this topic, you might like to visit this website, where you will find and excellent write-up.

Followup Q. Thanks very much for getting back to me so quickly. The paint on the Toyota is a deep robin's egg blue. My son has decided to remove the paint with a chemical stripper, which a friend of his who works at a body shop told him would circumvent the lead issue. I know that stripping agents can be toxic too, but would using one in fact keep him from inhaling lead particles?

A. First, since the color of the paint is a deep blue, it is unlikely that there is any lead in it.

Secondly, using a paint stripper will significantly reduce the risk of inhaling any lead in powder form. Whatever your son inhales will probably be the solvents in the paint stripper. Since these can be toxic, he should wear an appropriate rspirator, but bear in mind that the respirators used to capture dusts are different from those that are used to prevent him from inhaling solvent vapors.

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