Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

February, 2004

Concentrations of Lead in Lead Based Paints

Q. I work for the Department of Environmental Protection in Massachusetts. We are examining environmental issues related to the reuse of painted asphalt, brick or concrete. Can you tell me, or refer me to another source, what lead concentrations were typically used in paint to paint the inside or outsides of commerical type buildings (like hosipitals)typically made with brick or concrete construction materials. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

A. Thanks for your question. In the "olden" days, probably before the 1960s or perhaps even including the 1960s one of the pigments used in white paint was white lead. In later years lead pigments were discontinued. Therefore, if you are looking at buildings that were originally painted after the 1960s, or thereabouts, you will probably not find white lead.

Until the end of the 1970s lead chromates were used in pigments such as oranges, reds, yellows and some greens. You are less likely to have found blues, browns, black, grays and of-course whites, with lead chromates.

Finally, in most alkyd-type paints small concentrations of lead-containing driers were incorporated to promote drying of the paint from the top to the bottom of a paint film. Some paints might still contain such driers, although I believe that they have not been used in consumer paints for quite some time.

You can try to contact the Federation of Societies of Coatings Technologies in Pittsburgh, PA for more information.

I hope this helps.

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