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Lead In Older Figures? Newborn In The House As Well...

Discussion in 'Just starting...' started by Chris '75, Jan 25, 2013.

  1. Chris '75 New Member

    I have a large numbers of metal figures from back before I think resin became the preferred material for larger scale figures... most of these are from England, purchased around 1985-1987ish, brands like (off the top of my head ) Almond Sculptures, Invicta Figures, Calder Crafts(?) and hundreds of smaller scale fantasy figures from Ral Partha and Citadel from the same time frame. They're not as high quality, for the most part, as newer figures - but, I've been using them to hone my skills before spending more on newer offerings, for the most part.

    As I'm prepping a few of the larger scale ones right now and particles from fine dust all the way up to large chunks of flash are flying around, I'm curious if I should be concerned about lead in these things at all? I just googled the subject as well and found websites which lead me to believe that I should be concerned about even newer ones (websites discussing handling precautions, gloves, masks, not letting children handle unpainted figures and so forth as lead alloys are still commonly used for figures).

    In any event, while I'm concerned for my safety, my wife and I have the single most precious 5 month old little girl in the world and I worry mostly for her sake. My modelling area shares the same room as our computers/office nowadays so she has very minimal exposure to the room itself. While it's bigger and we initially wanted it to be the nursery we went this route as I was worried about any contaminates leftover in the walls, carpet, etc. even after the most thorough cleaning. I've implemented the obvious changes (given up using enamels, primarily use acrylics, keep any solvents in small containers and in small amounts and open only when I'm using them, airbrush only when I can shut the door and the baby can be at least a few rooms away, etc.). She, only rarely will be in here with me, a safe distance away in terms of shrapnel while I am working on a figure or model and I think my wife may have her in here as well, likely very briefly, just while getting on the PC/Internet for a few minutes: but is even this too much given that the room does have all my materials (paints, solvents, brushes, etc) and probably has residual vapor of all of these floating around?

    So, I guess my question is, should I be MORE concerned about these older figures and if any of you had thoughts or suggestions as parents in this hobby? Thanks in advance for any feedback....
  2. Einion Well-Known Member


    You can take it as a given that there is at least some lead in most or all older castings, and in some cases lead will be the highest percentage (above 65%). So the short answer is yes, but how much is really up to you - while lead is certainly toxic it's not quite as dangerous as we might suppose*.

    Plenty of people back in the day did the same hobby while raising their kids and while this isn't directly a recommendation, or a warranty of any kind, it is some reassurance that modest amounts of white-metal dust aren't an overt threat to health.

    That should be just a general caution, rather than a specific warning concerning lead - there should be no lead in any of the casting metals in common use today. Not that you can't buy these still, you can, but modern health-and-safety regs should have seen the last of them used commercially (again though, no guarantees).

    *Bear in mind that urban westerners over a certain age were exposed to significant amounts of lead environmentally because it was used as an anti-knocking agent in gasoline and we don't hear tales of widespread lead poisoning as a result.

    Gaudin likes this.
  3. Dan Morton A Fixture

    I generally agree with most of what Einion says. Wash your hands very thoroughly with soap and water after handling any metal casting and before eating, drinking, handling an infant, etc. When you first get the metal figure, use a soft brush and wash it with soap and water.

    Keep the dust to a minimum, keep it confined and keep it away from the infant. Personally I wouldn't use any power tools on a metal casting. With a power tool, I don't see how you could avoid getting some metal dust in the air. Clean up the work area periodically with soap and water.

    I'm aware that all of this is easy to say and harder to do. Nonetheless...

    All the best,
    Einion likes this.
  4. Mark S Guest

    Chris, congratulations on your precious new addition to your family. It's a wonderful time that you should cherish while she's an infant, apart from the sleep deprivation ofcourse.
    I'm no expert on lead contamination and the evidence which is gradually becoming clear on such things has changed so much lately that I won't pretend to know what advice to give you but I reckon I'd be more concerned of other environmental toxins before I'd be worried about a few old figures being sanded and filed. Cleaning the area of dust and obvious lead is the most appropriate action but really I reckon there are far more serious contamination about us than what could be produced by a few old figures.
  5. Richie A Fixture

    Hi Chris,
    All sound advice from above. Having previously worked in the electronics industry for more than 15 years one of my hats would be to educate and teach the workforce about all aspects of soldering.
    Basically lead cannot permeate the skin, any health risks comes from ingestion. Practise the advice from above and you can't go wrong, secure storage, a change of work methods to limit dust, personal hygiene and good house keeping.
    Gaudin likes this.
  6. Gaudin A Fixture

    They are curently linking lead levels to violent crime rates ( I am serous - seems like there is some evidence - how good it is I dont know), but not only exposure to known polution - also the background soil levels.
    But oral ingestion of lead is a serious issue - and not an acute one that is noticed straight away. Thankfully we dont see that many these days

    Otherwise its your personal preference how far to take the precautions, if you are sensible- cant take far enough;)
  7. Gaudin A Fixture

    Also true, Mark, but not a reason to abandon caution with lead.

    Ultimately ( in my view) - IF problems later develop, no matter how minute the odds - cursing yourself for being stupid isnt going to help then.

    Its a good old discussion of absolute risk vs relative risk to individual and odds of the event = no matter how small the risk - it will happen to some one at some point somewhere.
    If its avoidable - I wouldnt want that someone to be my child (well, any child for that matter- but you get my point)
  8. Martin64 A Fixture

    I have raised three children and throughout this time permanently worked on white metal figures - among them a big number of figures from a well-known German sculptor whose figures definitely contained a larger amount of lead. I know for sure because I was present when he casted figures. He used to melt down lead parts from car batteries for his casting alloys:eek:! Limiting the dust in my hobby space while removing seamlines and metal oxides and hygiene were therefore mandatory. At that time I changed to acrylic colors to reduce odors as well. Never faced any problems about lead and my kids are still alive but there is another problem about lead which is sometimes overlooked: In older houses (and communities) the water pipes for your drinking water might contain a larger amount of lead. While the lead problem within the hobby is a matter of personal view this problem is more serious! So if you want to avoid oral ingestion by your daughter your precautions maybe have to be extended.
    All the best! Martin
  9. socko47 Active Member

    I think everyone has given good advice. I would add to be aware. Keeping your work area clean, trying to reduce residual dust, changing to safer paints are all the right ideas. Just remember that little kids put everything into their mouths. So washing your hands is smart but don't forget your clothes will have dust on them and you don't want your new baby sucking on your shirt. You will have to rush out of your work area for some child care issues at times, possibly to comfort your child, so just be aware what you bring with you. I wouldn't think you have to act like you have to be sterile before handling your child, in other words don't get obsessed. You will find a practical balance.
    ChaosCossack, Helm and Gaudin like this.
  10. Helm A Fixture

    Chris as the others have said as long you are careful with what you do it should be fine,

  11. old grumbler Active Member

    As much soap and water when tooling the figures, keeps dust to a minimum, I'd be more worried about Flouride getting in to a newborn.
  12. Wendy Active Member

    You also might want to have a dedicated jacket or shirt to leave in the room. Something comes up just take it off and wash hands. :)
    Helm likes this.
  13. ChaosCossack A Fixture

    Let common sense be the best guideline. Don't go chasing ghosts. The same precautions you take for yourself will keep the rest of your family safe. Keep the workplace clean, be careful with hazardous material in the house, wash your hands when your done working and a metal Grenadier is NOT an All Day Sucker!

    Everything your Mom told you when you where little still stands today

    Einion and Helm like this.
  14. Helm A Fixture

    I did a lot of cleaning of white metal around my lad when he was little.... Although now as he turns 13 that might explain a lot :unsure:

  15. Steve Well-Known Member

    I think lead was pretty much out of figures manufactured after 1985 or so. Figures with lead can suffer "bloom" and I have kits manufactured soon after then that show no sign of it. I have been at it since '78 and NEVER experienced this or any other lead related issue. Better safe than sorry of course but I do not think it is an issue.
  16. Gaudin A Fixture

    Shame you didnt have your predicting powers then ;)
    At least now there is a handy explanation for every backchat - just dont give him that as excuse
  17. Einion Well-Known Member

    And inhalation of course.

    The form it takes is important, due to differences in what's what's called bioavailability.

    The same metal can be quite hazardous in metallic form but not as a salt (truly harmless in fact in some cases). It's actually the reverse with lead to a degree, where metallic lead is relatively low risk but one of its compounds that people used to be exposed to most commonly from house paints was white lead, basic lead carbonate, which poses a much greater risk - note anyone using Cremnitz White, Lead White, White Lead, Flake White etc. Nothing to freak out about but be sure to adopt good studio practice if you're a regular user.

    housecarl likes this.
  18. Gaudin A Fixture

    Well, now we are going into biochemistry discussion ;)....
    Reminds me of mums who are paranoid about E numbers in everything.

    You are right, Einion, there are different levels of obsession it can be taken to.
    Realistically - kids are not eating lead pain chips of the wall and almost no housing these days has lead piping, even Victorian houses (albeit guttering still is) so whatever risks are left are negligible.

    Like you said - good studio practice and common sense.
  19. Dan Morton A Fixture

    Gaudin -
    "no housing these days has lead piping" - I'm not sure I'd go that far. No new housing is being built in most Western countries with lead piping, but there are still a lot of older homes on the market in the US with lead pipe and bits here and there. I don't know about Europe.

    But I agree, I don't want to turn this into biochemistry.

    Reasonable precautions and common sense.

    All the best,
  20. Gaudin A Fixture

    Gosh, Dan - I didnt even think US to be honest. In Uk this is mostly thing of the past now.

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