Improving Air Quality in Your Community
This information will help you gain a better understanding of electroplating operations. The topics below address the following questions:
- What are electroplating operations?
- What kinds of pollutants are emitted from electroplating operations?
- How can I help electroplaters reduce air pollution?
- What other Web sites related to pollution reduction in the electroplating sector are available?
Electroplating is a type of metal finishing operation that changes the surface properties of a metal part to make it stronger, shinier, and corrosion-resistant. Activities at electroplating shops include surface preparation, surface treatment, and post-plating treatment. EPA has an excellent profile of the fabricated metal products sector (PDF) (156 pp, 1.6 MB), including electroplating.
Electroplating operations can produce emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), including heavy metals and cyanide, and volatile organic compounds (VOC). These pollutants may contribute to health concerns in the shop and in the community. While Federal, state, local, and Tribal regulations limit the amount of emissions from electroplating shops, dangerous releases of HAPs can occur if an electroplating shop does not operate in compliance with regulations.
- Degreasing solutions and cleaning solutions can release some HAPs and VOC. Chemicals in these substances can react in the air to form ground-level ozone (smog), which has been linked to a number of respiratory effects. EPA has developed a Web site dedicated to ground-level ozone.
- Plating processes generate heavy metals such as hexavalent chromium and cadmium. The EPA Health Effects Notebook contains information about chromium and cadmium.
- Cyanide has been a key component of plating solutions for years and is the most toxic chemical used in the electroplating process. It can impact the nervous system, heart, and lungs. The EPA Health Effects Notebook has information about cyanide.
- Make Connections
- Get to know local electroplating shop owners and operators. They know best about the materials and processes used in their businesses and the regulations with which they must comply.
- Keep local media aware of progress by sending them updates. Publicity can reward success and attract more public involvement.
- You can use EPA Region 9's Merit Partnership Pollution Prevention Project for Metal Finishers as a model for partnering with shops in your area.
- Make a Plan
- One idea is to form a work group that includes local owners and operators to develop and implement workable pollution reduction plans.
- Locate Resources
- Find state, local, and Tribal contacts.
- Use the resources listed on these Web pages to get help with analysis, technical information, equipment, training, and funding.
- Encourage Pollution Prevention
- Work with pollution prevention organizations to educate electroplating shop owners and operators about ways to prevent pollution.
- Help sponsor trade shows and training workshops to show the latest pollution prevention technologies.
- Reward Shops
- Use media connections to provide coverage for successful efforts. Positive publicity can mean increased business.
- Visibly displayed awards or certificates may also increase business.
- EPA has regulated the electroplating sector as part of its National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.
- EPA has a Sector Strategies Partnership Program for the metal finishing sector, including electroplating operations.
- The National Association of Metal Finishers is the national trade association for metal finishers, including electroplating shops.
- Check out Pollution Prevention Progress for 23 Washington Electroplating Facilities: an Industry Sector Report (PDF) (60 pp, 640 KB) from the Washington State Department of Ecology on pollution prevention progress for 23 electroplating facilities.
- More pollution prevention information can be found from Colorado, Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center, Illinois Waste Management and Research Center, Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association, and the Pollution Prevention Institute of Kansas State University.