Brian Turner is a staff contributor at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance where he writes about the cancer risks that toxins such as asbestos pose. He recently reached out to me and ask to become a guest blogger regarding the risks of these toxins in classic cars. I was more than happy to oblige.
Dangerous Toxins in Classic Cars – by Brian Turner
If you are considering restoring a classic car (such as this Ferrari 250) or do this already, you need to be aware that old cars can have some dangerous toxic substances in them. Toxins are even found in upholstery if it is let out in the sun for too long. If you are exposed to them, you could experience serious health problems. Here are a few of these hazards that you need to know about.
Lead is very toxic and can be found in the wiring, battery, and radiator. It is also present in paint, used as filler for dents in the body, and some could be left from the leaded gasoline that was used. Exposure can damage your brain and nervous system, create problems with the kidneys, and cause learning disabilities. The lead could be turned into dust while the car is being sanded and then inhaled.
Two other toxic chemicals that may be found in the paint of older cars are cadmium and lead chromate. Cadmium was used for red and yellow colors and is easily absorbable by the lungs. Lead chromate is not only toxic but can cause cancer.
Over the years, cars will have deposits of grease, oil, and dirt and these may contain furfural and phenol residue. These can enter your body through your lungs or through your skin and they can damage your nervous system.
You may not think that a classic car can give you a disease but it can. There may be mold, fungi, or bacteria that have been growing a long time. Rusty objects can have C. tetani bacteria on them and can cause tetanus if it finds its way into your body through a cut. Therefore, it might be a good idea to make sure your have had a tetanus shot recently if you are going to restore an old car.
Asbestos can be found in cars that were made before 1970 in the brake drums and pads and in the clutch plates. It has been discovered that the dust that is lying around the wheels and brakes of old cars could be 15 percent asbestos. Asbestos is one of the most dangerous toxins found in old cars because it causes mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that can affect your lungs and other organs. Asbestosis is another condition that is caused by exposure to asbestos. It causes serious inflammation of the lungs.
To protect yourself from these toxins, you need to wear a dust mask and latex gloves when working on a classic car. You should also use a shop vacuum to collect as much dust and dirt as you can to prevent future harm.