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DuPont Refinish to Pump Unleaded

Monday, July 16, 2012

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As lead exits the world’s last car engines, it is also finally disappearing from car coatings.

DuPont, the world’s top car paint maker and the first to mass-market colored car coatings, has announced that its global DuPont Refinish business will stop using leaded pigments in its products by the end of 2012.

 Cars roll through GM’s assembly line in the 1930s, painted with DuPont’s coatings.

 National Building Museum / Albert Kahn Family of Companies

Cars roll through GM’s assembly line in the 1930s, painted with DuPont’s coatings. DuPont pioneered car coatings that could be spray-applied, rather than brushed on, reducing painting time by weeks.

All passenger-car formulas in the aftermarket paint brand have already been converted to lead-free pigments, the Belgium-based company says.

For commercial vehicles, all remaining lead-containing topcoats in the company’s Centari MasterTint and Imron PowerTint brands are now being converted to lead-free formulas, so that body shops will have immediate access to alternatives by the year’s end.
Changing Priorities

Customer demand for the heavy lead pigments has kept them going, but DuPont Refinish is also concerned with safety and environmental issues surrounding the products’ manufacture and use, said Linda Van Calster, marketing communications manager EMEA.

“Whilst the use of leaded pigments was discontinued in the OEM arena a number of years ago, customer demand and the perceived benefits of lead pigments in the industrial and refinish segments has meant supply has continued,” she said.

“With our strong links to our parent company, DuPont, it is important to reinforce its core direction of sustainable growth coupled with a promise to safety, health and environmental excellence.”

Product Advice

The company is promoting its new lead-free alternatives through its color retrieval website weekly updates.

Meanwhile, to help customers avoid major increases in topcoat paint consumption, the company is recommending the use of its ValueShade primer, available in seven shades of gray, to improve hiding and topcoat coverage.

Van Calster says the online ValueShade color formula retrieval technology makes the product easy to select and use.

DuPont, GM and Cars

DuPont was the first company to develop a car paint that was available in a palette of colors—a welcome novelty for customers tired of Henry Ford’s famous black.

Not only that, but the DuPont product could be sprayed on, rather than hand brushed, reducing the painting time of a vehicle from weeks to just six hours.

 Duco, the company’s first car paint, was introduced with a palette of colors in 1922.

 DuPont Refinish

Duco, the company’s first car paint, was introduced with a palette of colors in 1922. Today, DuPont’s Coatings & Color Technologies Group is the world’s largest automotive paint supplier.

The company’s first car paint, named Duco, was a nitrocellulose lacquer rolled out in 1922. Within four years, Duco was in use on General Motors’ first paint line and became the standard finish on all GM cars, according to DuPont’s published history.

DuPont and GM had formed a relationship in 1914, when Pierre S. du Pont (great-grandson of founder E.I. du Pont) bought stock in the car maker. Du Pont soon became a board member of GM, then board chairman.

After World War I, DuPont treasurer John J. Raskob persuaded his board to invest $25 million in GM. When the carmaker was on the brink of bankruptcy in 1920, Pierre du Pont became president of GM, and the GM holdings made up half of DuPont’s total earnings.

DuPont disposed of all its GM stock in 1961.


Tagged categories: Automotive coatings; DuPont; Lead; Pigments; Topcoats

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/17/2012, 8:32 AM)

Which colors were leaded, and which lead pigments were being used?

Comment from Mary Chollet, (7/17/2012, 9:12 AM)

Tom, they don't say ... on either count.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/18/2012, 10:31 AM)

OK - thanks.

Comment from William Feliciano, (7/19/2012, 8:44 AM)

Never imagined that lead pigments continued to be used on automobiles...I am involved in specifying bridge coatings and I thought the ban on lead in that sector back in late 80's was the "final frontier" for leaded pigments...go figure.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (7/20/2012, 10:15 AM)

William, it depends on where you are. Where I am, recent regulatory changes have resulted in a lot of paints that 4 years ago would have been classed as "non-lead" are now re-classified as "lead containing" and hazardous...and it's not just auto finishes, either.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/24/2012, 8:16 AM)

Good point. "Lead paint" used to be 1% lead or more. Now it's much more common to see 0.06% (600 PPM)

Comment from M. Halliwell, (7/24/2012, 10:55 AM)

Tom, where I am at, "lead paint" has gone from 5% down to 0.009% (90 ppm) in the last decade. Makes a big difference as sites that didn't previously have a "lead problem" are now having to deal with it.

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