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  • As a parent of small children, I'm concerned about lead exposure.

    When it comes to paint and gelcoat on cats, I've seen mixed results from lead tests.

    Does anybody know what years/colors the various manufacturers used lead-based finishes? Do they still?

    I've lead-tested or seen test results of several beach cats, with results as follows:
    1978 Solcat 18 - Red-orange - Lead test positive (X-ray Florescence test, since paint color obscured test swab)
    1981 Hobie 16 - White - Lead test negative
    1981 Hobie 18 - White - Lead test positive
    1981 Hobie 18 - Yellow - Lead test positive
    1980s(?) Hobie - White - Lead test negative

    If you're going to tell me not to worry about lead, I kindly ask that you provide sources as to why it's not a concern. :) Most of what I've read about lead paint from health experts is along these lines:

    "Deteriorating paint that is flaking or chalking is of special concern. If you wipe your finger across the painted surface of a boat and the colour comes off on your finger, then anyone who touches that surface is at risk of lead poisoning if the paint contains lead." (https://www.dcceew.gov.au/environment/protection/chemicals-management/lead/lead-in-marine-paints)
  • If you're concerned, test the boat you're concerned about. Lead test kits are easy to get, easy to use

    Chuck Miles
    1978 Hobie 16
    1991 Hunter 23.5
    TsaLaGi Yacht Club, Jackson Bay Marina
    Fort Gibson Lake, OK
  • And now for a tirade-

    Here's a HUGE time out. First, there's been a bunch of "activists" that are hitting up forums with dramatic, unfounded accusations about the hazards of fiberglass insulation, composites, etc. Which looks a whole lot more like stoking up fears about certain industries, likely for economic and strife purposes.

    Having said that, and let's PRESUME for the moment that you are legit, let's discuss these potential "hazards":

    First, there's no lead content within epoxies, polyester nor vinyl ester resins. It serves no purpose there. There is a possibility of lead oxide in certain color pigments, however these make up a minute fraction of the total volume of material. Additionally, such lead products have LONG been illegal in the US, though Chinese companies still foist the cheap, lead painted stuff on us all the time (see the massive number of stories about this online).

    Ok, next- IF there is any lead in an epoxy or ester matrix, it has to be available for exposure to the individual, and second in an amount that matters. That typically means sanding the material aggressively then breathing or ingesting the material. Then it matters what type of lead it is as to whether it's biologically available to the persons body. For the type of boat maintenance activities we deal with in the US, adults have a very, very limited exposure potential.

    And, then just because "it's chalky" has zero bearing on whether gel coat is a problem, nor whether it has any lead issues. It's gel coat, not house paint, which had WAY larger quantities of lead oxide. The chalky in gel coat isn't due to lead. Buffing and removing the oxide is not a health hazard. Lead Oxide is sweet to the taste and was a problem for kids, who are particularly at risk, much, much less for adults.

    I've gone on long enough- you want to discuss proper monitoring and hazard assessment, not just taking a portable XRF to take "pictures" of crap or just make up drama, then we can go there, but coming on forums and fear mongering is absolutely irresponsible and an obvious lack of common civility. And, if you have somehow got your hands on a portable XRF and you're going around "taking pics" of stuff to find a problem that probably doesn't exist, it's even worse. After All, there's a whole lot more lead in your cell phone... And, are you sure you don't have some interferences? And, finally what readings did you get? Next, how do these readings correlate to either airborne or ingestion concerns?

    Charles C., MS, CIH, CSP. CHMM
    (MS Environmental Sciences, Certified Industrial Hygienist, Certified Safety Professional, Certified Hazardous Materials Manager)

    Chuck C.
    H21SE 408
  • charlescarlis, thanks for the detailed info. I certainly don't mean to fear monger. Most of my lead experience comes from DIY projects in old houses, where I follow the EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program. I've been surprised where I have (and haven't) found lead in the finishes.

    I'm looking to purchase my first boat, and I notice that the ones with my budget tend to leave dust on my hands when I test for soft spots. Probably much of that is just dust from the air, but I've seen one that was definitely shedding its red finish.

    I plan to store the boat in my driveway. No matter how much I tell the kids not to play on it, they certainly will, and will get the dust on them. The dust will also get into my vegetable garden, and maybe(?) components could get absorbed into our food. Those are my concerns.

    I'm impressed by your qualifications. If the positive lead test (3M swab) isn't something to be concerned about, that certainly makes my shopping easier. Would you mind posting some sources where I can learn more about the safety differences between boat finishes and house finishes? And if you'd like to discuss further here, I'll certainly listen, and maybe a paranoid like me can learn from it in the future.

  • cmiles3, thanks for the comment. I've been using the 3M swabs, and like you mentioned, they are affordable and easy to use.

    I'm hoping to find out what years might be less likely to have the lead finish, so I can have an idea before a long drive. :)
  • This peaked my interest - although, personally, I have never had many concerns about lead in gelcoat on my boat. I read some content on the internet from a variety of places. Most general information that I read says pretty much the same things.

    1. Lead can be a health hazard.

    2. In the late 70's the US started regulations on lead in paint for certain applications. Mainly non commercial or
    residential paint.

    3. Lead exposure is typically through ingestion and/or breathing it.

    4. Precautions include not ingesting paint, washing surfaces to remove any dust that could contain lead, washing
    hands after touching a suspect surface to prevent hand to mouth transferal.

    5. Lead use is paint not regulated by all countries and sometimes higher levels of lead appear in imported

    6. Lead is in so many things that we use everyday that it is impossible to avoid completely.

    7. One of the main uses of lead in paint is the pigment.

    8. The 3M lead check confirmation card contains lead nitrate (.005 - .01 % by weight) according to the product data sheet.

    9. Lead content is a debate that can go on forever.

    All this is interesting but back to your actual cat related question.

    Since one of the primary uses of lead is pigment and regulations started in the late 70's (in the US) I would likely look for boats that were manufactured after the late 70's that have no or little pigment in the gelcoat (White).

    When you do find a boat maintain the painted surfaces to limit the amount of oxidation that occurs. The are many marine waxes that protect gelcoat and keep it looking good for a very long time.

    I hope you find the cat that is right for you and your family.

  • Sorry, I've seen so much "activism" by amateurs that I sometimes get carried away; we'll dial it back a bit...

    ACTUALLY, white and red pigments have, historically in paint been the higher values of % by weight. I've done years and years of lead exposure monitoring in houses sometimes but mostly industry. The highest levels of airborne lead came from torching apart soldered pipe. Industrial enamel paints, while high in lead content, surprisingly didn't have super high exposure rates from sanding and less so for needle guns and scaling operations. The same cannot be said for residential houses, but I think it's a bit overblown.

    Now, for kids - it's an entirely different story and their primary exposure route (generally) is oral; fingers in mouths, teething and chewing on a window sill, etc. Their little bodies are sucking up calcium for the growing bones and that's exactly where the lead goes to, making for a long time to excrete it again. So, I wouldn't take chances with kids when sanding on a boat, but I wouldn't panic over the issue either - be prudent and keep them away for a multitude of reasons. Adults can handle lead a little better but we still don't wan excessive exposures. Primary solutions for us? Wear an N95 mask or better when sanding (don't want to suck in fiberglass either) and don't go tramping through the house with dirty work clothes; better yet get some Tyvec or similar and throw it away by rolling it inside out when you take it off. Wash hands before breaks, etc. Just use common sense. When we dispose of materials that contain lead, we have to run a TCLIP test and from the results I've seen (even here in Galveston), the amount of material removed and amount of lead that is leach-able is USUALLY below threshold limits, but not always - especially on houses built in the 1940's through 1960's. Sometime in the 60's to 70's they started reducing the amount of lead in the paints, as stated above.

    As for the chalk - I really don't THINK it contains lead, but won't swear by it. Really need a sample to run through AA/Mass Spec to know for SURE. I might try that. Even then, the % of lead in the material matters. If it's a very, very small amount it's likely to be overly bound up in the matrix of the resin to not be available to your body even if you did eat it by accident; we can't digest it.

    And then for the real question - Is it an issue if I buff or wet sand it? TYPICALLY not as correct wet sanding is done, well wet and that keeps the dust from becoming airborne. Likewise, correct buffing (well what I call "correct") is typically done at lower speeds and with a "wet" compound. You're not really creating much dust from the chalk to begin with.

    I'll check the literature, but I REALLY don't think you're going to find much out there as there are just many, many higher risks that deserve your/our attention more.

    I may, out of morbid curiosity collect some oxidized chalky "stuff" and see what's in it. If so, I'll post the results here.

    Chuck C.
    H21SE 408
  • charlescarlis, thank you very much!
  • Chuck, didn't know you were CIH, CSP, CHMM, etc. Are your still working? I did a career in Environmental and need to offload clients.

    NACRA 5.7 (1984 Sail 181)
  • Yup, still working...for now. Not too far from retirement, hopefully.

    As a follow-on, I have access to and searched the literature. There's really nothing out there indicating there's any potential hazard from lead WRT pigmented resins. Might be because lead pigments were going out of style when fiberglass boats were coming in, I don't know. If I get a sample run, I'll post.

    Chuck C.
    H21SE 408
  • Chuck, it is still safe to eat glue right?


    Well, the paste glue anyway... I mean I did, and well...

    Maybe it isn't a good idea, on second thought.

    Chuck C.
    H21SE 408
  • QuoteMaybe it isn't a good idea, on second thought.


    Edited by MN3 on Jul 28, 2022 - 04:59 PM.

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