It must feel like the walls are closing in on the finishing industry these days, no matter how busy shops are and how robust the industry seems to be.

Two significant pieces of news came out recently that could affect the electroplating industry severely.

The first was that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that it will soon start visiting chrome finishers in the next few months to gather information on per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

"The (EPA) will also conduct site visits and a wastewater sampling campaign to better understand the types of wastewaters being generated by chrome finishers and the performance of treatment technologies and practices being used to manage them," the agency told

Those words are scary in that I'm hearing from many in the plating world that they have not been told much about 1) what the EPA will be looking for and 2) how they will collect it.

The EPA says it has been working with the National Association for Surface Finishers to put together a survey that will be distributed to those in the finishing industry to collect data on PFAS usage and discharge.

We're not sure what the survey asks, either, since the NASF doesn't tell us anything. Moreover, the NASF has booted out of almost every public meeting it has had with the EPA, including the Washington Forum and at SUR/FIN.

While has been pretty much kept in the dark, it appears that many platers have been, too.

"I haven't been hearing much at all about PFAS from the NASF," a plater told me recently. "It seems like you have to call around to try to get an answer. It's frightening, of course, because you just want to know what is planned down the road."

The other news that came out was that the EPA released its draft "IRIS Toxicological Review of Hexavalent Chromium," which could lead to further restrictions on the metal's use in the metal finishing industry.

The EPA announced Oct. 20 a 60-day public comment period associated with the release of the draft Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Toxicological Review of Hexavalent Chromium. 

The effect on the finishing industry could be that, with possibly more stringent rules for the use and restrictions of hex chrome, it may be harder for facilities to meet any new regulations set by the EPA. The current rules set by the EPA limit the maximum level to 100 parts per billion.

The American Chemistry Council came out strong against the EPA's draft release, saying they "have strong concerns that the conclusions of the latest state-of-the-art research on hexavalent chromium have been ignored."

The finishing industry has faced many challenges before and is still standing. I'm sure they will withstand the next challenges of PFAS and hex chrome, too, but at what cost? The finishing industry is so vital to the U.S. manufacturing sector, but it can take only, so many body blows.

Perhaps these two attempts by regulators will result in new rules but leave the industry intact. We certainly hope so, and U.S. manufacturers better hope so, too.

Tim Pennington, Editor-in-chief

TPennington 3Tim Pennington is Editor-in-Chief of Finishing and Coating, and has covered the industry since 2010. He has traveled extensively throughout North America visiting shops and production facilities, and meeting those who work in the industry. Tim began his career in the newspaper industry, then wound itself between the sports field with the PGA Tour and marketing and communications firms, and finally back into the publishing world in the finishing and coating sector. If you want to reach Tim, just go here.

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