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QUESTION: Was/is lead added to acrylic paints as well as enamels? 12/02/09   Tasmania, Australia

I am renovating a 1950's weatherboard house in Northern Tasmania. I have tested the exterior paint to see wether it is acrylic or enamel and it appears to be acrylic. This includes all the layers down to the timber. This seems to be somewhat confusing based on the age of the house. I used methylated spirits and the paint colours came off onto the rag.

My question is: Was lead added to acrylic paints as well as enamels?? I have looked on the internet for the answer and was unable to find one.




----- Original Message -----

From: "sean" To: The LEAD Group

Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2009 8:34 PM

Subject: RE: Was/is lead added to acrylic paints as well as enamels?

Thank you very much for getting back to me with the information. We have since I sent the original email bought a test kit and it came up positive for lead on at least one of the earlier coats of paint. We are now looking at safe ways to remove the paint as it is in a flaky condition on quite a lot of the house.

We know that sanding and heat guns are definitely not a recommended way of removal. Presently we are looking into using an infrared heat stripper from Sweden which does not heat up enough to release the plumbic gas from the lead paint but does allow it to be scraped off. I am thinking of laying plastic down below where I scrape taped to the side of the house so that all scrapings land on the plastic for safe removal. The next problem  will be where should this be removed to?

All suggestions will be welcome



ANSWER: February 12 2009

Dear Sean,

thanks for your interesting inquiry.

I drafted up an answer and then thought I'd better have it checked by Australia's leading expert in the field, Fred Salome. So Fred has also provided an answer and you can see his email below mine.

Leaded pigments can be added to any type of paint and for 2.5 billion people in the world today, lead for residential paints is not banned by their national legislation, so there are many countries where leaded acrylic paints are being manufactured and sold and exported right now! See for example, "Study Supports 'Urgent' Need for Worldwide Ban on Lead-Based Paint" at ] It is my understanding that millions of recalled Chinese painted toys over the last couple of years have been recalled (in USA, Europe, Australia, etc) for containing leaded acrylic paint.

Tragic isn't it?

"Acrylic paints" are called "latex paints" in the USA and most of the information in the world about lead in paint comes from the USA so I did a web search for latex paint + lead, and came up with:

  1. "Latex paint seldom contained lead" [Source:]
  3. "Paints commonly used in households: Water-based: latex - least harmful, pre-1992 paint may contain mercury... Paints purchased before 1977 may contain lead in the pigment." [Source:]
  4. "HOW DO I GET RID OF IT? Latex Paint - water-based latex, vinyl, or acrylic paint in a spray or can...Do not reuse paint purchased before 1977 since it may contain lead. " [Source:]"

I have never heard of the methylated spirits test helping anyone to know anything about lead in paint. It is not a useful nor recommended test for this purpose.

You will see from the Dulux Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) below, that the methylated spirits test is intended to allow you only to determine whether old paint on a surface is probably enamel, water-based or acrylic paint:

"Q. How can I tell if the old paint in my house is enamel?

A. Apply methylated spirits to a rag and rub a small area of the paint. If the paint is not removed by the metho, you will find that it is enamel. If the paint reacts quickly to the metho, it is most likely a water based paint. If it takes a little longer to react, then it is probably an acrylic based paint." [Source:'s]

Another FAQ from the same Dulux webpage source states (without defining what they mean by "old"):

"Q: How do I know if there is lead in my old painted surfaces?

A: In buildings which are very old it is possible that some of the original paint or primers may still contain lead. Extreme care should be taken with the removal of these coatings. They should not be sanded or burnt. Independent chemical laboratories can test paint flakes for lead. There are also small lead test kits available through a range of paint specialty stores, which can test individual paint chips for lead."

If by "old", Dulux means pre-1998, then the above makes sense, because, as you will see from my own website:

"Despite all the Australian literature referring to pre-1970 homes as being the problem, it was only in 1997 that the allowable level of lead in residential paint in Australia went down to 0.1% which is still higher than the US 1978 standard of less than 0.06% lead." [Source:]

However the following answer to the FAQ from the Dulux website is claiming that Dulux has not added the allowable levels of lead to house paints since, at the latest, 1979, and I have thus filled in the form at requesting documented proof for the claim made in the following Dulux statement:

"Q. Does my paint have lead?

A. None of Dulux's house paints contain any lead and have not done so for over 30 years." [Source:'s Accessed 11 Feb 2009]

IF I receive any proof from Dulux, I'll forward it to you.

 ----- Original Message ----- From: Fred Salome To: The LEAD Group

Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2009 11:14 AM


Acrylics (or latex paints, or plastics, or copolymers, or PVA, all different names for water-borne paints) have been used in Australia only since the 1950's.   Initially they were used inside, and exterior grades would have become common only after lead was largely removed from paints (ie after 1970).

 There are no lead driers in any water-borne paints - driers are specifically used to assist in the curing of enamels (alkyd enamels, or oil-based paints).

 Lead pigments could have been used in water-borne paints, although I think it would have been rare for white lead to have been used, as its chemistry may have interfered with the emulsifiers.  However lead sulpha-chromates probably were used, especially as tinters for yellow, red and orange shades.

 The methylated spirits tests is not totally reliable, and I agree that a house in Tassie probably would not have had acrylic (or plastic or PVA) applied to the exterior back in 1950's.  Some lacquers are also soluble in metho.  It probably has some acrylic as the outer layers, and perhaps the original enamels have since been lost to weathering or removed by others.


Fred Salome

CTI Consultants Pty Ltd

4 Rothwell Avenue, Concord West  NSW   2138

PO Box 153, North Strathfield  NSW  2137

':  02 9736 3911

7:   02 9736 3287

Mobile: 0418 276 819


----- Original Message ----- From: The LEAD Group To: "sean" Sent: Friday, February 13, 2009 11:59 AM

Subject: Re: Was/is lead added to acrylic paints as well as enamels?

Hi Sean,

you have really done your research and come up with a lead-safe method. Don't forget to wear a well-fitting respirator while using the Speedheater from Sweden, because it will create paint fumes and these should not be breathed by anyone either.

Can I mention that typically you will still need to wet-sand the final 5-10% of paint after using the Speedheater, and the wet-sanding is done with a water-spray bottle in one hand and a sanding sponge (designed to be used wet) in the other hand, again with the plastic sheeting below you and properly taped.

Once you have gathered all the paint debris in the plastic sheeting, it is easiest to roll it up and discard all together inside a strong plastic bag. The plastic bag can then be closed up and placed in your normal municipal garbage collection.

I hope it all goes smoothly.

Kind regards


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