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Dye Facilities


This Industry Profile Fact Sheet is presented by the EPA Region 3 to assist state, local, and municipal agencies, and private groups in the initial planning and evaluation of sites being considered for remediation, redevelopment or reuse. It is intended to provide a general description of site conditions and contaminants which may be encountered at specific industrial facilities. This fact sheet is presented for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a federal policy or directive.


Dyes are intensely colored substances used for the coloration of various substrates, including paper, leather, fur, hair, food, drugs, cosmetics, waxes, greases, petroleum products, plastics, and textiles. The methods used for the application of dyes to substrate differ widely, depending upon the substrate and class of dye.

There are presently approximately some 1,200 different commercial dyes manufactured in the United States, and another 800 are imported. Dyes can be classified as acid dyes, basic dyes, direct dyes, disperse dyes, fluorescent highlighters, reactive dyes, sulfur dyes and vat dyes. Dyes are produced by a variety of chemical reactions from raw materials; most of these materials are hazardous to humans.


Common raw materials used to produce dyes include cyclic aromatic compounds, such as benzene and naphthalene. In addition to the cyclic aromatics, many aliphatic reagents and inorganic chemicals are also used. These include sulfuric acid and oleum for sulfonation, nitric acid for nitration, chlorine and bromine for halogenation, caustic soda and caustic potash for fusion and neutralization, and sodium nitrite for diazotization, as well as ammonia, hydrochloric acid, chlorosulfonic acid, and sodium carbonate, bicarbonate, and sulfide. The heavy metals (copper, chromium, mercury, nickel, and zinc) which are used as catalysts and complexing agents for the synthesis of dyes and dye intermediates are considered priority pollutants. The raw materials commonly brought into the facility in large quantities and stored at the facility in tanks, drums or other containers. The final products are also stored at the facility until shipment to suppliers or end users.


On-site waste piles, lagoons and waste pits were common treatment/storage techniques prior to the promulgation and enforcement of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA). Effluents from dye factories are the major waste from dye production and processing. They should be treated before leaving the plant. Effluent treatment methods include physical, chemical and biological methods.

The toxic nature of some dyes has long been recognized. The specific carcinogenic compounds involved in the dye industry include the following:

The possible contamination of drinking water supplies is of concern because certain classes of dyes are known to be enzymatically degraded in the human digestion system, producing carcinogenic substances. Additionally, contaminated building and the associated demolition debris may be encountered at abandoned or inactive sites. Decontamination and wipe testing of this materials may be required prior to off-site landfill disposal.


All raw materials encountered on site should be visually identified and confirmed using immuno-assay, qualitative indicators, or wet chemistry field screening techniques. It should be noted that many of the raw materials containing corrosive and poisonous compounds may represent a significant direct contact and/or inhalation hazard to assessment personnel. Visually identified contaminated areas should be characterized by collecting samples for laboratory analysis. Surface and subsurface soil sampling should be performed to confirm the suspected contaminated areas. Once the primary contaminated areas are established, grid or random sampling may be performed to confirm the suspected clean areas.

The application of non-intrusive subsurface geophysics should be evaluated to detect underground burial pits, process lines and chemical storage tanks. On-site and local wells may be sampled if groundwater is an environmental concern. Installation of monitoring wells or other groundwater sampling techniques should be evaluated if it is necessary to fill data gaps.


Fluorescent Compounds Analysis

pH Analysis

Target Analyte List (TAL) Analysis

Target Compound List (TCL) Analysis

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Brownfields & Land Revitalization

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