#Leaded: 1980s El Camino Car

1980s El Camino car, auto paint tested positive for approximately 9,000 ppm lead when tested with an XRF Instrument.

The amount of lead that is considered toxic in “an item intended for children” is anything 90 ppm lead or higher. Automobiles are not considered “items intended for children” and are therefore not regulated for total lead content — especially vintage autos (which are much more likely to be made of metal (vs. fiberglass, composites, plastics, etc.) and therefore more likely to have been painted with paint formulations that have high lead content.)

I have tested some vintage automobiles that have had lead levels as high as 40,000 ppm lead and higher. I have also seen more than one case where a child’s primary exposure was determined to likely be from the paint on their parent’s vintage car that was used as a daily driver, so this should be considered as a relevant concern for potential exposure in modern childhood lead-poisoning cases.

Even newer automobiles may be painted with lead paint, as lead paint for vehicle use was specifically exempted in the 1978 U.S. lead-based paint ban (and to my knowledge, still remains so). The paint on the current/modern cars I have tested [less than 20 in total] has all tested negative for lead — likely because the body panels and trim on modern cars are typically no longer made of metal [and are perhaps not candidates for the types of heavy-metals-rich enamels widely used on metal surfaces?]

The exception to this that I have seen is paint on modern farm equipment and similar industrial vehicles. These vehicles are still typically made of metal and therefore still might be painted with lead paint [as lead paint is more likely to be found on metal substrates in modern applications (vs. modern passenger cars which are more often than not made of composite or plastic substrates and therefore often have coatings that are plastic based and more likely to have super adhesion to the molecularly similar substrates.)]

So please note: storing bark chips for your garden in the back of your 1980s El Camino (see photo) is NOT advised! Especially if you are scooping it out of the back of your truck bed with a metal shovel (which could scrape the paint further, and easily add unsafe levels of lead to your garden!) #UnexpectedLeadAdviceForToday

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Thank you for reading, following and sharing! Please ask questions if you have them!

Tamara Rubin
Mother of Lead Poisoned Children
Trained and Certified in using an XRF instrument

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