Dusts and Metals

How does dust get into the air?

Body shops have many sources of dust and particles:

  • spraying paint on the shop floor
  • dry sanding paint with an unventilated sander
  • sanding body filler (bondo)
  • welding or cutting
  • grinding
  • sweeping
  • using compressed air to blow off dusty cars, clothes, etc.
  • using a portable fan in the shop
Use a vacuum instead of sweeping - get the dust out of the air.

What is in the dust?

The pigments (colors) in paints you use are often made from metal salts. The most hazardous pigments contain cadmium, lead, and chromium. [The exact ingredients of the colors you spray should be listed in the MSDS or on the label.] These metals are released into the air when you spray coatings or when you weld, grind or sand old paint.

Grit from sandpaper and tiny particles of filler are also put in the air when sanding paint or body filler. Sweeping or blowing keeps the dust in the air.

What are the effects of breathing dusts and metals?

Repeated exposure to excessive amounts of any dust can irritate your eyes, ears, nose, throat and skin and possibly cause lung damage. Symptoms might include a rash, cough, congestion or trouble breathing.

Breathing these metals can harm your lungs, nervous system and other organs, such as your liver or kidneys. Cadmium and chromium have been linked with cancer. Even at very low exposure levels, lead has been shown to cause depression and sleep disorders. Bringing home lead dust on your clothes can have severe effects on your children.

Preventing health effects

To prevent contact with dusts, you need to wear PPE and clothing that will protect your skin, eyes and respiratory system and work with adequate ventilation. Depending on what task you are doing, you might need a respirator, eye protection such as safety glasses or goggles, face protection, gloves, an apron and coveralls. For example, when sanding wear eye protection, a dust mask, and gloves. And don’t forget to change your dusty clothes before going home!