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Improving Air Quality in Your Community

Outdoor Air - Industry, Business, and Home: Metal Operations - Additional Information

This information will help you gain a better understanding of metal operations. The topics below address the following questions:

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What are metal operations?

Metal operations manufacture and finish (excluding coatings) metal parts ranging from paper clips to car bodies and spiral staircases. Activities at metal operations include metal fabrication, surface preparation, metal finishing, and other processes. The EPA has developed sector notebooks for the Fabricated Metal Products (PDF) (156 pp, 1.6 MB) and Metal Casting (PDF) (159 pp, 1.7 MB) sectors that provide detailed information on the industry.

This page does not specifically address coatings although coating operations can take place in-house. Please see the Painting and Coating Operations page for more information.

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What kinds of pollutants are emitted from metal operations?

Metal operations emit pollutants such as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), volatile organic compounds (VOC), and particle pollution (dust). These pollutants can contribute to health problems that may affect shop employees, their families, customers, and the community. While Federal, state, local, and Tribal regulations limit the amount of emissions from metal operations, dangerous releases of HAPs can occur if a shop does not operate in compliance with regulations.

  • Lubricants, degreasers, and cleaners can release some HAPs and VOC. Chemicals in these substances can also react in the air to form ground-level ozone (smog), which has been linked to a number of respiratory effects. EPA has developed an extensive Web site on ground-level ozone.
  • HAPs and particle pollution (dust) containing metals can result from the fumes generated by soldering or welding operations. EPA has created a Web site related to particle pollution.

For more information on the toxicity of pollutants, check out information in EPA's Health Effects Notebook and on the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). EPA also has more information available at its Air Toxics Web site.

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How can I help metal operations reduce air pollution?

  • Make Connections
    • Get to know local metal operations owners and operators. They know best about the materials and processes used in their in their business 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.
  • 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
    • Small metal operations may need funding in order to attend or provide training.
    • Improved skills lead to reduced hazardous air pollutant exposure for workers.
    • Work with pollution prevention organizations to reach metal operators.
    • Help sponsor trade shows and training workshops to show the latest technologies.
    • Check out information from EPA Region 9 on sponsoring workshops for the metal operations sector. EPA Region 9 has also developed an outline they use to conduct these workshops.
  • Reward Facilities
    • Use media connections to provide coverage for successful efforts. Positive publicity can mean increased business.
    • Visibly displayed awards or certificates may also increase business.

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What other Web sites related to pollution reduction in the metal operations sector are available?

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