By Jeanne Yacoubou, VRG Research Director
A long-time member recently asked The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) about the glues and paints used in model kits. He was interested in building models using only vegan materials defined as materials which contain no animal ingredients nor were produced using animal-derived products.
After speaking with several model kit companies and craft glue and paint manufacturers in March to May 2014, The VRG discovered that most of the currently available kits, glues, and paints are derived from petrochemicals (petroleum or natural gas) that originated long ago from ancient animal and plant matter. A major exception is insect-derived carmine derived from carminic acid used as a color in some craft paint.
Model Kit Companies
The VRG contacted a few model kit companies to find out if they produced their own paints or glues or had any recommendations.
A customer service representative at Revell® told us that their American model kits contain only the plastic model parts. (Revell in Germany includes paint and glue in its kits.) Polystyrene plastic is used. Polyvinyl chloride tires are sometimes included. A Revell employee recommended Testors® paint for their kits.
Hasegawa® told The VRG that “most paints and glues are synthetic but can’t guarantee that there are no animal products.” At our request the service rep looked at the ingredient label on a can of spray paint and noted that “other ingredients” were listed with no further information provided. They had no information on the plastic parts.
A twenty-year employee at Tamiya® told us that he “doubted very much” that animal products were in the paint or glue saying that he was “99.9% sure that there were no animal ingredients.” He informed us that polystyrene is the plastic used for their model kit parts. Synthetic acrylic paint is used and rubber cement is sold separately. No further information was available.
The VRG identified craft glues without animal-derived ingredients according to company information. However, we received no complete ingredient statements as companies told us that their ingredient formulations were proprietary. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available for glues yet they list only the potentially hazardous ingredients which in most cases are petrochemical-based. Possible animal-derived glue ingredients such as gelatin or the milk protein casein would not be listed on MSDS sheets.
Elmer’s® website stated that no animal products are used in their glue:
Elmer’s does not use animals or animal parts to make glue. Our products are made from synthetic materials and are not derived from processing horses, cows or any other animals.
Elmer’s products appropriate for model kits are:
The VRG called Elmer’s about the rubber cement and learned that it also does not contain animal ingredients. Customer service representative Brian told us that “all of Elmer’s products are synthetic.” He said that they never used animal products although the milk protein casein was in a glue produced by Borden® (dairy company) in the early 1900s (source).
Weldbond® also produces vegan glue. According to its FAQ page:
Weldbond® is not tested on animals and does not contain any animal by-products. This product is Vegan Friendly.
The VRG spoke with the technical department at Weldbond and learned that its glue would not work well with certain plastics including those commonly used in model kits such as styrene and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
The VRG received an email reply from Plaid® that manufacturers several craft paint brands listed on this page:
We were informed that,
Plaid products contain no food products, no food by products. No animal products and no by-products of animals. Plaid products are not animal tested…Plaid product ingredients are proprietary information and not available for public review.
After we received this email The VRG called Plaid and asked specifically about carmine. A customer service representative told us that their paints contained “natural pigments.” She didn’t know if carmine was included in this category but would ask the chemist, and mentioned that there is a Plaid paint color called “carmine” but didn’t know if carmine was in it.
She called back to relay information provided by the chemist. She said that “…some Plaid paint products contain carminic acid.” She could not specify which ones but said “…all Plain paint brands may contain it.”
Testors® paint produced by RPM International® Inc. is a major hobby paint brand. When we first contacted Testors by phone and asked if animal products were in their paints, we were told that no animal ingredients were present.
The VRG called Testors again and asked specifically about carmine. The product support representative told us that she would have to ask in the lab. Later she replied by email,
I heard back from the lab at Testors. We regret to inform you that carminic acid is in many of our colors.
‘We do use carmine, as it is a red pigment and it is derived from carminic acid which comes from scale insects. Red pigments are combined in many colors to make the actual finished pigment.’
During a followup call The VRG learned that carmine or carminic acid would not be listed on a paint label. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) list only hazardous ingredients and so carmine even if present would not appear. Here are some MSDS examples of red paint products found on Testors website:
Pearl Red Aztek® Airbrush Paint:
We were told that both brush-on and spray Testors paints could contain the insect-derived pigment. No listing of specific paint colors produced with carmine is available from Testors.
In foods and beverages, carmine can be used to produce orange, pink, red and purple shades (source). This page also contains general information about carmine.
Readers may note that in 2009, the FDA ruled that carmine must be declared on food and cosmetics labels due to the possibility of severe allergic reactions in some people (source).
The contents of this article, website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.