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Chemical Regulation

California will phase out hexavalent chromium

by Krystal Vasquez
June 4, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 18


A closeup of chrome-plated parts of a motorcycle.
Credit: Atoma

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has voted to amend its rules on airborne toxics and phase out the use of hexavalent chromium by the state’s 117 chrome-plating facilities. The May 25 amendment targets both decorative and functional chrome-plating operations and requires the facilities to stop using the compound by 2030 and 2039, respectively. Chrome plating is the act of electrically applying a layer of chromium to the surface of an object. Although it is often associated with shiny automotive and motorcycle parts, chrome plating is also used to improve the durability of aviation components such as landing gears. But the process of applying the chromium coating creates toxic fumes that pose a cancer risk to people living nearby. According to CARB, over 70% of California’s chrome-plating facilities are located in low-income communities. Under the amended rule, CARB is requiring chrome-plating facilities to install building enclosures to reduce emissions. The agency is also encouraging the industry to switch to less-toxic alternatives such as trivalent chromium. Decorative chrome platers who choose to phase out their use of hexavalent chromium by 2027 will be given first access to funding to ease the transition. For functional chrome-plating facilities, suitable alternatives to hexavalent chromium still need to be developed.


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