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Tuesday, 24 September 2019
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Raw materials & technologies, Applications

XRF measurements of tin, copper and zinc in antifouling paints

Friday, 25 March 2016

Swedish researchers have used a new XRF application for analysing metals in antifouling paints on leisure boats.

High loads of copper were detected on large number of boats sailing in freshwater. Source: Verena N./pixelio.de

High loads of copper were detected on large number of boats sailing in freshwater. Source: Verena N./pixelio.de

Tributyltin (TBT) and other organotin compounds have been restricted for use on leisure boats since 1989 in the EU. Nonetheless, release of TBT is observed from leisure boats during hull maintenance work, such as pressure hosing.

Almost 700 leisure boats were analysed

In this work, the researchers used a handheld X-ray Fluorescence analyser (XRF) calibrated for antifouling paint matrixes to measure tin, copper and zinc in antifouling paints coated on leisure boats in Sweden. The results show that over 10% of the leisure boats (n = 686) contain >400 μg/cm2 of tin in their antifouling coatings. For comparison, one layer (40 μm dry film) of a TBT-paint equals ≈ 800 μg Sn/cm2. To their knowledge, tin has never been used in other forms than organotin (OT) in antifouling paints. Thus, even though the XRF analysis does not provide any information on the speciation of tin, the high concentrations indicate that these leisure boats still have OT coatings present on their hull.

XRF method can be a useful tool in regulatory management

On several leisure boats they performed additional XRF measurements by progressively scraping off the top coatings and analysing each underlying layer. The XRF data show that when tin is detected, it is most likely present in coatings close to the hull with several layers of other coatings on top. Thus, leaching of OT compounds from the hull into the water is presumed to be negligible. The risk for environmental impacts arises during maintenance work such as scraping, blasting and high pressure hosing activities. The data also show that many boat owners apply excessive paint layers when following paint manufacturers recommendations. Moreover, high loads of copper were detected even on boats sailing in freshwater, despite the more than 20 year old ban, which poses an environmental risk that has not been addressed until now.

The study is published in: Environmental Pollution, Volume 213, June 2016, Pages 594–599

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