Chromium in its hexavalent/chromate form is a hazardous substance and is on the ECHA (European Chemical Agency) candidate list to come under very stringent regulation from September 2017. Chrome(VI) processes are scheduled with this “sunset date” and many Qualicoat applicators are already using, or now adopting, viable alternatives well ahead of the due date.
Chrome pre-treatment is still being used by some Qualicoat members as it is a resilient and easy to apply conversion layer for aluminium that has been tried and tested for over 60 years. Once the process is complete, the finished aluminium profile carries no chrome (VI) and so is safe to use and recycle within the construction supply chain. Applicator employees are protected under the guidance of the COSHH regulations (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) when working with these pretreatment systems.
Chrome-free pretreatment systems have been available for a number of years and many are approved by Qualicoat, so why do some members continue to use Chrome?
The main reason is cost efficiency. Chrome pretreatment is robust, tried and tested, and relatively easy to use. Chrome-free, on the other hand, requires additional production equipment and a more stringent control regime, both of which are an investment and can incur additional costs in production. Early adopters of chrome-free pretreatment systems now have a range of systems available and the experience to select systems that suit their plant and throughput. When applied correctly, chrome-free pretreatment systems are as effective as their chrome bearing counterparts.
Including Qualicoat UK and Ireland’s new members in early 2014, seven of these sixteen applicator members are already running chrome-free pretreatment plants and other members already have plans in place for the switch. For Qualicoat UK & Ireland members there is an abundance of advice and support for the change over from the associations independent inspectors, Exova, and from within the association itself.
For updated information about the use and specification of Qualicoat in the UK and Ireland, please visit the associations' website at www.qualicoatuki.org