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Home > Programs > Bureau of Environmental Protection > Office of Customer and Technical Assistance > Auto Body Certification Research Findings
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Automotive refinishing, comprised of approximately 60,000 facilities nationwide, is a high hazard industry (Enander et al., 1998- see references). Refinishing operations are generally conducted in a series of three steps: body repair, surface preparation and spray painting. In large facilities, dedicated body men engage in repair and surface preparation operations (such as frame straightening, sanding, grinding, welding, and priming), while professional spray painters apply the final coatings (i.e., base coats and clear coats); in many small to medium sized shops, however, painters double as repair technicians as production specialists are not employed.

In addition to potential solvent and isocyanate exposures among spray painters, recent investigations conducted in the State of Rhode Island have shown that "body men" are also at risk of exposure to metal particulates in sanding dust and methylene chloride vapors from vehicle paint stripping operations (Enander et al., 1999- see references). Numerous samples of sanding dust, representing nearly 200 vehicles, were obtained from Rhode Island refinishing facilities over an 18 month period. Lead, arsenic, chromium, manganese and nickel were present in the sanding dust of every facility tested (e.g., Pb range: 180 - 7,300 mg Pb/kg dust). Laboratory analysis of ten commercially available body filler compounds also revealed that four contain lead; sample lead concentrations ranged from 3 to 1,500 mg/kg.

Personal air monitoring also confirmed the potential for excessive workplace exposure to lead (>OSHA 8-hr TWA Action Level) and methylene chloride (>8-hr TWA PEL), during chemical paint stripping, among body repair technicians. Wipe samples from the workersâ hands taken before lunch break and at the end of the work shift showed lead concentrations in the range of 24 to 211 micrograms. Blood lead screening of 23 individuals at two facilities was conducted in 1998-99 showed that nonexposed workers (e.g., salesmen and front office workers) had blood lead (PbB) levels comparable to the U.S. geometric mean of 2.8 μg/dl. Body men who engaged in sanding operations for 6-8 hrs. per day had the highest PbB levels (up to 38 μg/dL). Based on personal monitoring data (total/respirable/inhalable particulates and hand wipes) the ingestion pathway appears to be an important pathway contributing to elevated PbB levels (Enander et al., 1999- see references).

This new research data coupled with field observations of conventional work practices and potential exposures among spray painters to paint solvents and isocyanates, led to OCTA's investigation of new approaches to risk reduction in this industry sector.


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