Hazardous Substances in Classic Cars: What You Should KnowPosted by Brian Turner - 10/10/11 at 11:10 am
Enthusiasts love their classic cars, and people everywhere admire them. They stand out on the road, capture peoples’ interest, and bring back memories of times gone by. However, for all the beauty and wonder that classic cars bring people, something sinister lurks beneath their glossy exterior and polished chrome: They’re full of all sorts of highly toxic, dangerous and cancer causing substances. Even worse, most people who work with classic cars don’t seem to be aware of this startling fact!
Asbestos was a common material used in the manufacture of older brake pads, and is often still found in brake pads made in foreign countries. Most people in the United States erroneously believe that their brake pads don’t contain asbestos due to modern regulations regarding their manufacture. This is a very serious issue that people who work on classic cars need to be aware of.Exposure to asbestos, especially chronic and prolonged, is linked to a number of serious health problems including mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos fibers can also become lodged in the eyes or get into the mouth and swallowed, opening up the potential for other cancers, as well. When working with older cars, take precautions to shield yourself by wearing protective clothing, a dust mask and safety glasses. Be sure that you always do your work in a well-ventilated area.
In decades past, most notably before the 70’s, lead was a common ingredient used to make paint. Unfortunate laborers in the automotive industry at the time did not know that their chronic exposure to lead could cause kidney, brain, nerve and blood damage, learning disabilities, reproductive difficulties and mental retardation in their children. Many modern owners and restorers of classic cars don’t think about the fact that their car is essentially coated with lead, and remove it without care. The usual method of removing paint from cars is by sanding or grinding, which would throw lead-laden dust into the air where it can be inhaled and become lodged in the mucus membranes. Always wear protective clothing when removing paint from old cars, and do so in a well-ventilated environment.
Bromine is a chemical that was, and still is, used in seat belts, plastic dashboards and car seats. It is also a primary ingredient used in fire retardants, which may be on a car’s other upholstery, as well. Chronic and prolonged exposure to bromine has been associated with hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, behavioral problems, reproductive damage, impaired memory, and damage to the kidneys, brain and liver. These problems are more likely to show up in future generations, usually the second or third.