I received an alarming email from Allan B, a veteran wargamer who lives in Nevada. Allan is also employed by the Nevada State Division of Environmental Protection, and he has become aware of some possible future regulations which may be of interest to wargamers everywhere.
There is a current civil lawsuit, which has not yet come to court, which involves a claim by a museum employee that he has had his health seriously damaged by working in an environment containing vintage diecast and other toys, without adequate protective measures being put in place. Little is known of the detail of this case as yet, but there is general concern that old toys containing lead and other heavy metals in alloy are seen as potentially unsafe.
One immediate effect is that the forthcoming wargames show in Carson City this summer is likely to be able to proceed only under special licence, and the insurers for the event have already pulled out, pending further investigations. It is possible that attendees will have to be issued with some kind of protective clothing – probably only gloves, though the possibility of some kind of breathing apparatus for staff working on the stands is not being ruled out.
The problem is State Regulation NRS 459.3816, apparently, which lays down requirements for organisations employing staff in potentially hazardous situations. Lead is present in most old paints, and lead and antimony were very common ingredients in cast metal toys manufactured until the 1970s. The difficulty, apparently, is not helped by the lack of precise knowledge of the dates when standard practice changed, nor of the exact age or manufacturing details of specific toys. Lead, in particular, can become unstable as it ages, and toxic free ions may be released with no apparent visible change to the object. The effects of lead poisoning are well known.
As yet there is no mention of the possibility of regulation concerning the domestic use of such old toys, but this may also become an issue, especially if the court case sets any worrying precedents. If the court finds in the claimant's favour, the knock-on effects could be world-wide.
Start looking for your grandad’s old gas mask?