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topic 2389

Is there lead in the paint on metal structures from the '50s to '70s?


Q. Hazardous exposure in preparation? I am currently repainting metal structures that were installed in the late 50's, 60's and 70's. I can't locate the original specs! The existing coating has deteriorated to a chalky surface with some light rusting at welds and on the surface. What is the probability of that remaining material is lead residual or other hazardous? If so, is there a risk to the public if they were to contact this surface? What is the sanding dust risk to applicator? Is there a non-destructive test available or would I have to take a sample to a lab? Thanks Pete.

Pete B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Reno, Nevada


A. The probability is pretty high that these structures contain materials in their finishes that are currently ruled hazardous. I don't know the correct specs to refer you to offhand, but I do know that there are indeed specifications written by standards agencies that dictate how the material must be removed, how the debris must be contained, and how it must be disposed of. You might start with ASTM and the Steel Structures Painting Council.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. Thanks Ted for your response. However, I would still like other opinions about lead residuals and subsequent encapsulation if in fact there is some present. Is this testable. If the units were playground equipment, would there be some concern? Would like to hear from others besides SSPC manuals for removal of "hazardous materials"

Pete B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Reno, Nevada

! So would I, Pete, since I've now also just become involved in restoration of a 100+ year old ferris wheel which has been found to have lead-based paint on it :-)

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. For what it is worth, perhaps one could blast a small area with a portable blasting machine and then analyse the material which is blasted off for hazardous characteristics. Depending upon the result, one might be able to grit blast the structure in question and then repaint. One shop I where I worked, we had a very large set of metal tanks that came in to be stripped of paint and then were to be repainted. That is what we did, we hired a local sand blasting company who had equipment mounted on a truck and moved them outside. After blasting, we cleaned up the residue and repainted. We had to get a crane to move the two tanks around, and the paint was determined to be non-hazardous.I would definitely plan on respiratory protection as particulates can be hazardous. Perhaps the structure can be plastic sheeted off in sections for protection for the public during the blasting and clean up process, as is done for asbestos removal.Just food for thought.

Ward Barcafer, CEF
aerospace - Wichita, Kansas

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