Most of us are aware of the hazardous chemicals baked into our machines. Some, like fuel and oil, are obvious as explosion and fire hazards. Antifreeze is straight poison. Others are just so nasty we just know we don’t want them on our skin. But others are more nefarious, still. Are YOU taking the right precautions to protect yourself?
Classic cars are worked on and restored by many people as a hobby. One thing many people fail to realize, however, is that such classics often still contain hazardous chemicals and materials that can cause severe damage to one’s health. Classic cars in particular pose a higher risk for such hazardous exposure because during the time of their production, manufacturers commonly used materials such as asbestos and lead in their parts before the risks they posed became common knowledge.
Cadmium was a substance used to paint cars yellow in the past and is absorbed into the blood stream quickly through the lungs; even short-term exposure is harmful and can result in death. Lead chromate is another common substance found in the paint of classic cars and poses similar risks to cadmium; once it is absorbed into the blood stream through the lungs, the likelihood of getting blood poisoning is great.
Asbestos was a commonly used material during the early and mid-20th century, well known for its resistance to thermal stress and fires. Asbestos can be found in the clutch plates, drums and brake pads of many classic cars because of this. After being used for decades, however, the public eventually learned that exposure to asbestos particles could cause severe respiratory disorders. Studies have shown that up to 15 percent of debris cleaned from older brake pads contains asbestos.
Asbestos can be found in the clutch plates, drums and brake pads.
Exposure to asbestos is common due to the abrasive nature of the parts it is contained in. Brake pads and clutch plates constantly rub against other parts, slowly flaking off asbestos particles over their life spans. Long-term breathing-in of these particles can lead to a severe respiratory disorder known as mesothelioma, which drastically reduces lung capacity and an individual’s ability to absorb oxygen into the blood.
In order to avoid exposure to any of the harmful substances mentioned, a series of precautions should be taken. When working with classic cars that are known to contain cadmium, lead chromate or asbestos, one should be sure to cover any exposed skin by wearing long sleeves and high-durability latex gloves. Individuals should also wear face masks and respirators in order to avoid breathing in any toxic particles given off from these substances. When done working around these substances, one should thoroughly air scrub their clothing before entering any inhabited rooms that contain constant air movement, as this can spread the particles around one’s home.
Brian also put together this sharp infographic for us.
- What precautions do you take when working with the hazardous chemicals on your vehicles?
- Are modern clutches, brake pads, and hood liners truly safer than their predecessors?