Corrosion is a common issue that affects metals and other materials over time. When these materials are exposed to the environment, chemical interactions begin to affect the material, causing deterioration. The most common type of corrosion is rust. Rust and other corrosion can cause equipment, structures and other items to break down, compromising their structure. This becomes an important issue when trying to preserve the safe and efficient operation of equipment and structures. Corrosion can create hazards, and it can also greatly compromise the value of an item. For example, corrosion in pipes can contaminate tap water, and in automobiles it can damage internal engine components.
But corrosion itself isn’t the only danger. Corrosion prevention solutions can also be caustic and harmful. Let’s look at a few of the negative impacts some of these corrosion prevention solutions can have on individuals and the environment, along with a less harmful solution that has made its way into in the market.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gaseous emissions that originate from specific solids and liquids. They have high vapor pressure at normal temperature, and can be found in many products. This high vapor pressure results in a process called outgassing, in which these compounds vaporize and are expelled from a material. This can often be experienced when opening a new mattress or freshly painting a wall. The smell of a new mattress or of fresh paint is the result of VOCs.
Common products containing VOCs are: paints and adhesives, aerosol sprays, pesticides, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals and refrigerants. (To learn more about the ingredients in paint, read The Composition of a Paint Coating.) These toxic VOCs are also often used in corrosion prevention products.
Exposure to VOCs can cause headaches, allergies, dizziness, nausea and other physical irritations. A most concerning fact is that there is not yet a lot of information available on what long-term health effects can occur from VOCs typically found in common households, although many VOCs produce emissions known to cause cancer in humans. VOCs are also responsible for depleting the ozone layer and causing smog, which is a growing concern in many areas of the country.
Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) and Toxins
The classification of a VOC relies on whether the substance generates ozone. A hazardous air pollutant, or HAP, is a substance that poses a hazard to both humans and the environment. HAPs have the potential to cause cancer or other serious health conditions or defects. The Environmental Protection Agency has included these HAPs on a list of 187 chemicals that can have detrimental effects on individuals and the environment at large. These chemicals can cause dizziness, difficulty breathing, birth defects, headaches, a higher risk of cancer and more. Unfortunately, many corrosion prevention products contain a combination of these HAPs, and can pose additional danger and risk to the user and the environment.
Many corrosion prevention solutions require the use of inherently flammable compounds and mixtures. These flammable solutions necessitate proper storage and disposal, as well as the trained use of the individual physically handling the product. When not managed with the utmost of care, this downside to corrosion prevention is one of the most situationally dangerous. The high flammability factor of many of the corrosion prevention products on the market can oftentimes create additional overhead costs. Efforts to take the appropriate safety measures necessary to complete the corrosion prevention process can quickly add up.
Flammability is also an issue for simple household use of corrosion prevention. Without the proper care and caution, corrosion prevention materials can become a dangerous hazard in the home.
An Alternative Alloying Solution
One alternative to the many toxic and harmful corrosion prevention solutions on the market is an alloying solution. An alloy coating allows the steel to take care of guarding itself. This option leaves no unprotected layers. An alloy forms when the acid in the formula reacts with the steel to form a magnesium iron phosphate layer. This layer acts as the first line of defense against any potential corrosion (and is discussed in the article Stopping Corrosion Under Insulation in Global Oil and Gas Facilities.)
Next, a chemically bonded phosphate ceramic functions as a second line of defense. A white ceramic topcoat continually leaches phosphate to prevent rust from forming. The alloy becomes part of the metal chemically, not mechanically, which is more beneficial than alternative polymer coatings that do not form an alloy layer and instead lay over the surface peaks like a thin blanket. This light layer can be scratched and otherwise damaged much more easily, which can ultimately defeat the purpose of corrosion prevention. (Learn ways to avoid such problems in Coating Failure: Why a Preventive Strategy is the Best Way to Avoid it.) An additional benefit of an alloying solution is that it doesn’t contain hazardous toxins (HAPs) and no VOCs, and it isn’t flammable.
Corrosion prevention is important for maintaining the integrity of materials. It also helps prevent value loss, and keeps homes, structures, automobiles, drinking water, and both living and working environments safe.
Many corrosion prevention materials on the market today come with a variety of dangers, such as flammability and substances that fall into the category of either a VOC or a HAP. Alternative alloying solutions are the next step on the path to safer, more reliable environments and easy corrosion prevention that doesn’t put individuals or the environment at risk.