Protecting Communities from Chrome Plating Facilities

Earthjustice is challenging the federal EPA’s weak emission standards for chromium electroplating plants, facilities that emit dangerous amounts of cancer-causing hexavalent chromium.

Case Overview

Many chrome platers release cancer-causing pollutants near homes, schools and day care centers, which means that the most vulnerable residents, including children, withstand the worst of this toxic exposure. In September 2012, EPA issued a final rule that failed to require all facilities to at least match the level of pollution control achieved by industry leaders in California. Instead of setting strong standards that would protect public health nationwide, the EPA set national standards that are weaker than what the Clean Air Act requires, and leave significant threats to communities living near chrome platers.

On behalf of local and national environmental groups Clean Air Council, California Communities Against Toxics and Sierra Club, Earthjustice challenged the EPA’s weak emission standards for chromium electroplating plants, facilities that emit dangerous amounts of cancer-causing hexavalent chromium. Earthjustice also represents these three groups and Chicago-based Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization as intervenors, defending certain positive updates in EPA’s standards from an industry challenge. Representative Henry Waxman; state and local regulators including the California Air Resources Board, State of New York, and South Coast Air Quality Management District; and American Lung Association, Air Alliance Houston, Environmental Integrity Project, and other community groups have filed amicus briefs in support of Earthjustice’s case.

Following an Earthjustice lawsuit, the EPA performed the long-overdue rulemaking to update the air toxics standards for chrome platers, which led to the current action now being challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. As a result of this rulemaking, EPA’s standards did make some improvements, such as requiring some reductions of hexavalent chromium emissions and phasing out the dangerous use of perfluorooctane sulfonate (or “PFOS”) based fume suppressants, and Earthjustice is helping to defend those new safeguards against an industry attack.

Chrome-plated hub caps.
Many chrome plating facilities release cancer-causing pollutants. (Photo courtesy of Cobalt123 / Flickr)

Case Updates

November 20, 2012 Article

The Shiny Scary Truth About Chromium

Chromium shows up in surprising places in modern society—most notably on car bumpers and furniture to improve how they look. Too often, the facilities that do this kind of plating put the carcinogen hexavalent chromium into the air in local communities where they operate. The highly toxic chemical was made infamous by Erin Brockovich’s work on a California case where hexavalent chromium leaked into a town’s drinking water. The case resulted in action against Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which…

November 20, 2012 Press Release

EPA Fails to Protect Communities from Cancer-Causing Air Pollution

Chromium plating facilities pump unsafe levels of dangerous chemicals near schools and homes

November 19, 2012 document

Chrome Plating Facilities Analysis