CA Passes New Rule to Ban Chrome-6
Last week, California air regulators voted to ban the use of hexavalent chromium in a variety of applications due to its high toxicity.
The new rule, adopted by the California Air Resources Board, will reportedly phase out the use of hexavalent chromium, or Chrome-6, by 2030 for decorative uses and by 2039 for essential functions.
Some metal finishing industries had reportedly tried to negotiate stricter rules instead of an outright ban, stating that oil refineries and car and truck manufacturers produce far more emissions. The state denied this, however, stating that the facilities have significantly increased chrome-6 emissions in their specific locations.
Chrome-6, though reportedly fine while in its hardened state, produces fumes that are 500 times more toxic than diesel exhaust during the application process, according to CARB. The process reportedly contributes to an increased risk of cancer in the disadvantaged communities where these facilities are situated.
According to a report from CARB, there are a total of 110 chrome plating facilities in California, 50% of which exist near homes or schools.
California air regulators vote to ban toxic chrome plating by 2039 https://t.co/tWDvNiBLQs— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) May 26, 2023
The plating is usually used for several purposes, including car restoration, protecting aviation components from rust and as a “lustrous” metallic finish for many consumer products.
“Hexavalent chromium, in my opinion, needs to go in the dustbin with the other dangerous industrial chemicals that we as a modern society have decided we’re not going to use anymore,” said Gideon Kracov, a CARB board member.
Industry leaders and business owners in California have reportedly expressed their disapproval of the new rules, calling it a “death knell for metal finishing operation in California.
“It’s going to render my business worthless,” said Art Holman, owner of Sherm’s Custom Plating, a car customization business in Sacramento. “My employees will be unemployed. Forty-three years down the drain. My entire business has worked until this [rule] passes and then my property is a hazardous waste facility.”
According to some plating facilities, the results of this will be an “outmigration” of jobs to other states with less strict environmental regulations.
Initial proposals for the ban on chrome-6 were set for 2027, though negotiations were made on the conditions that facilities build enclosures around their facilities to limit the escape of these emissions.
According to CARB, chrome plating is the process by which an electrical charge is applied to a plating bath containing an electrolytic salt (chromium anhydride) solution. The electrical charge causes the chromium metal in the bath to fall out of solution and deposit onto various objects (usually metallic) placed into the plating bath.
This electrical charge during the process causes the hexavalent chromium to be emitted from the bath as an aerosol that, once emitted from the facility, can be inhaled and entrained inside the lungs.
First identified by the state as a toxic air contaminant in 1958, CARB found that hexavalent chromium should be considered a human carcinogen for which there is no safe threshold exposure level.
In 1988, an Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) was adopted to reduce hexavalent chromium emissions from both decorative and hard chrome plating facilities, as well as chromic acid anodizing operations. This measure reportedly reduced overall emissions from these facilities by 97%.
In 1998, the ATCM for Chrome Plating and Chromic Acid Anodizing operations was amended to establish equivalency with federal standards. These amendments did not change the limits already in place, but established separate limits for new sources.
Then, in 2006, amendments were made once again in an effort to further protect the public, setting fort the “most stringent” emission control requirements in the country. These amendments were adopted and became legally effective in 2007.
The deadline to submit public comment on the proposed legislation expired in January of this year, and voting on the propsal took place earlier this month.