The ill effects of shooting Centari and paints with similar chemical properties were not the only hazards body shops faced in the ‘70s. In the days before we as a country and as a culture grew environmentally conscious, body shops had some horrendous ways of disposing of highly toxic waste products.
Many times, leftover paint was stored for a while until it gelled, then was thrown in the trash. Other times, it would be thrown on waste paper and burned. Some shops threw all waste products, including paint, thinner and primer, into a 55-gallon drum. When the drum was full, it was dumped off in some remote area---sometimes with the drum and all, or sometimes just the contents were dumped and the drum was reused. Some poured the barrel’s contents on the gravel parts of their lots or driveways to keep the dust down. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), enacted in 1976, was the principal federal law in the United States governing the disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste, which essentially ended shops’ practices of indiscriminant waste-dumping.
And if managing hazardous waste wasn’t enough to give shop owners a headache, OSHA entered the industry lexicon in the early ‘70s as well. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 took effect April 28, 1971. An article in the August 1971 issue of Automotive Service and Body News magazine noted that shop owners had to comply with federal inspectors who were able to stop in and inspect their shop at any time with fines for safety infractions reaching as high as $10,000. ASBN suggested 10 areas where inspectors were liable to look for safety hazards. The article also noted that the federal government was poised to “plague shop owners.” Shop owners now had something else to keep them awake at night.