Exposure to lead-containing dusts is a global public health concern. This work addresses an important issue of whether eco-friendly water-based paints reduce the exposure potential of auto-repainting workers to metals. With this aim, metal levels in automobile paints and worker metal exposure were measured using both solvent- and water-based paints. The levels of metals, and particularly Pb, Cr (total), Fe, and Cu, in solvent-based paints varied greatly among colors and brands. Lead concentrations ranged from below the detection limit (~0.25 μg/g) to 107,928 μg/g (dry film) across all samples. In water-based paints, the concentrations of Pb and Cr (total) were generally two to three orders of magnitude lower, but the concentrations of Al and Cu exceeded those in some solvent-based paints. The personal short-term exposure of workers who applied water-based paints of popular colors, such as black and white, were generally low, with Pb levels of less than <4 µg/m3
and Cr (total) levels of less than 1 µg/m3
. Conversely, mean short-term exposure to Pb during the painting of a yellow cab using solvent-based paints were 2028 µg/m3
, which was ~14 times the Taiwan short-term permissible exposure limit, while the mean level of exposure to Cr (total) was 290 µg/m3
, which was well below the exposure limit. This study demonstrates that water-based paints reduce the exposure potential to lead, and highlights the importance of source control in limiting the toxic metals in paints.
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