EPA Goes Easy on Pollution from Chrome Plating Facilities; Public Health Suffers

chrome plating facility photo

Image: Flickr via Randy Robertson

Chrome is popular for putting finishing touches on everything from household appliances to military equipment, but it's also known for the environmental and health hazards it comes with.

The EPA has recognized some of the potential health effects of chrome, but last week announced it would not update the emissions standards for the facilities that apply these finishing touches, called chromium electroplating, or chrome plating, plants.

Chromium is thought to be a skin irritant and trigger of ulcers, and longer-term, is a carcinogen and can damage the liver, kidneys, circulatory system and nerve tissue.

Earthjustice is calling on the EPA to step up because, despite concern for the communities living near the 1,700-plus chrome platers in the U.S., the agency is refusing to force these facilities to meet cleaner air requirements, even though technologies are readily available.

The application of thin layers of chromium—to improve appearance or durability—releases toxic compounds including hexavalent chromium, an unsafe carcinogen at any level of exposure.

Environmental law firm Earthjustice says in a press release:

despite sufficient evidence that chrome platers' emissions endanger the communities where they operate, the EPA proposed to find that the threats of cancer and other disease are "acceptable." Although the agency acknowledged that control technologies are available, its proposed rule would not require chrome platers to use them.

Jane Williams of the Sierra Club's Air Toxics Task Force said, "Cost-effective control technologies have been available for years. California has required its hundreds of facilities to use them, and if it can be done here, it can be done in other states."

She then expressed disappointment in the possibility that children could continue to be threatened with cancer "because our federal government cannot summon the political will to control chromium emissions."

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