International Paint’s Marine and Protective Coatings business has joined the growing global trend to get the lead out, becoming the first industrial coatings producer to eliminate the use of lead chromates in its products.
The shift, which began several years ago and is now complete, reflects International Paint’s product stewardship and sustainability goals, the company says.
International Paint phased out lead chromates over several years.
“This is the next step in our continuous drive to improve the sustainability of our total product offer,” said Bill McKee, Technical Operations Deputy Manager.
“By removing lead chromate from our products, users, builders, owners and operators will benefit from the assurance that going forward; our products on their assets will be lead chromate free, reducing any potential exposure problems from cradle to grave.”
International Paint says its decision follows the product stewardship guidelines laid out by Coatings Care, a voluntary environmental health and safety management program for coatings manufacturers established nearly a decade ago by the International Paint and Printing Ink Council (IPPIC).
International Paint says Coatings Care “is being actively implemented” around the world, but it is not clear how active that initiative is: The Coatings Care website has not been updated in years, and an email to the program this week was returned as undeliverable.
International Paint also cites direction by CEPE (the European Council of producers and importers of paints, printing inks and artists’ colors) and other agencies that want to see lead chromate removed from all products.
Long considered so harmless that it was used to tint candy, lead chromate is now known to be highly toxic. Containing both lead and hexavalent chromium, the compound is poisonous and a known carcinogen.
Known by many names, including chrome yellow, lead chromate has been a staple of traffic marking paint and other industrial paints in bright red, yellow, orange and green. Now, however, the compound is falling from favor.
GAELP / Suat Eman
|In 2009, the International Conference on Chemicals Management established a global partnership to promote the phase-out of the use of lead in paint.|
Lead in paint has been on borrowed time for decades, having been banned from residential products in the United States in 1978.
Although still used in industrial coatings, lead is lagging accelerating environmental trends. In 2009, the World Health Organization and U.N. Environmental Program’s second International Conference on Chemicals Management established the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint.
In Europe, chromic acid, most of the chromates used for chromate conversion, and chromated primers are all being targeted by new REACH regulations for limited usage as of May 2015. In the U.S., numerous federal laws already control the use of hexavalent chromium and trivalent chromium compounds, and the Department of Defense is starting to steer clear of the compounds.
Suppliers are following suit. In February, BASF, one of the world’s largest pigment makers, announced that it would stop making lead chromate pigments by the end of 2014.
Long favored for their weather fastness, color strength and corrosion inhibiting properties, chromate pigments are one of BASF’s oldest product groups. Nevertheless, the company said it had developed “many excellent alternatives” to the products.
In July, DuPont, the world’s top car paint maker, announced that its DuPont Refinish business would discontinue leaded pigments.
International Paint has taken the lead on coatings chemical safety before. In 2003, the company says, it became the first major coatings supplier to cease production of coatings containing tributyl tin; in 2006, it did the same for coal tar.
International Paint Ltd. is owned by Dutch-based AkzoNobel, the world’s largest coatings manufacturer and one of the largest specialty chemical makers. The business has 17 manufacturing plants and operations in 60 countries.