This article was provided to us as a public service to our readers. Please read carefully and make sure to apply what you learn to your next visit to your workshop!
Vehicle Restoration Safety: How to Minimize Hazards When Restoring Your Vehicle
Becoming the owner of the classic car of your dreams can be a surreal experience. However, depending on the condition of the vehicle when you initially purchase it, you may plan on putting in quite a few hours into the restoration. It is important to be mindful of the possible dangers lurking within older vehicles, and to take precautionary steps to ensure you are working safely.
Vehicles that were manufactured during a time of more laid back regulations have a higher chance of being built with parts that contain harmful toxins. It is difficult to pinpoint specific makes and models that contain dangerous carcinogens due to the lack of records and commercial regulations during the boom of the automobile industry (1920 -1970). Here is an overview of what to look out for when restoring your vehicle, and how to limit your risk of being exposed during your restoration, whether this be in a professional auto repair shop or your own personal garage.
Asbestos usage was widespread throughout the United States from 1920 to 1980. With this carcinogenic mineral being extremely heat resistant, it was a favorable component in many vehicle parts that deal with consistent friction. It is important to note that if your vehicle was produced during this time frame, you should understand which parts are most likely to contain asbestos, especially if the vehicle has original stock parts.
Here are some of the vehicle parts that are prone to containing asbestos:
- Brake Pads & Linings
- Clutch Linings
- Hood Liners
- Transmission Plates
- Fume Hoods
- Heat Seals
Asbestos poses a serious threat to the health of your body. When asbestos becomes disturbed, fibers are released into the air, allowing for them to be inhaled or ingested. Once these fibers are in the body, they may become lodged into the lining of internal organs such as the lungs and heart. Over a prolonged period of time, these dormant fibers cause the development of mesothelioma cancer, a rare disease with an extremely low survival rate.
To ensure you are not being exposed to these deadly fibers, be sure to wear protective clothing and properly secured eyewear and respirator mask to limit the substances you are coming into contact with. If you plan on replacing parts such as brakes, do so with caution, as they may be rusted and allow for fibers to become airborne, especially if parts like these are beginning to decay.
Also, you should limit the amount of compressed air you are using, as compressed air enables toxic dust to be moved around easily throughout your workspace. Keep your space ventilated, and be sure to remove any clothing that may have come into contact with fibers prior to entering your home or somewhere where you could put others at risk.
Similar to asbestos, lead was commonly used in paints up until 1978. The reason lead was used is because different lead compounds create pigments, playing a role in the production of certain colors such as red, yellow, and green. If you are restoring the paint on your car, you should be especially cautious of any chipping or flaking occuring on the exterior. Be careful when removing the paint, and if you are going to be sanding it, do so in an are surrounded by tarping which can easily be removed and labeled as hazardous.
When removing lead paint, lead dust is produced, creating another threat to your health. Lead exposure has been linked to causing abdominal pain, headaches, memory loss, and may even play a role in developing cancer in adults. Lead is extremely dangerous to children, so ensure that they steer clear of your work area.
Again, proper ventilation and protective gear is a must to reduce potential exposure. One of the primary reasons that mechanics and enthusiasts develop health problems is because many do not receive the necessary safety information prior to being exposed to these dangerous substances.
While it is easy to get captivated by your classic car and you may be eager to start your restoration, be sure to set up your workspace properly. The hazards associated with older vehicle parts are all preventable if you wear the right equipment and limit the amount of exposure that may occur when dismantling and repairing certain components. Be sure to spread this information to your fellow enthusiasts, as this November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. We want our community to continue to share our passion and in good health for many years to come.