Lead chromate-based pigments continue to be incorporated within thermoplastic road marking products by many manufacturers, despite serious concerns over the safety of the pigment. Countless evidence has provided solid conclusions in support of banning lead chromate in road marking materials. Our industry is founded on the principles of providing safety to road users, but lead chromate seems to have been passed as an exception to the rule.
To date, there is no ‘safe’ level of lead exposure to humans or the environment that deems lead chromate a satisfactory addition within the industry. As of 2014, Ennis Flint began our lead-free initiative and have since encouraged others to do so, as the risks to human health and the surrounding environment are well known. Lead has already been removed in various other industries, including the removal of lead from decorative paints, toys, vehicle fuels etc. and all manner of products due to the health concerns surrounding the pigment, so why not road markings?
Extra safety equipment is required by crews to prevent any concentrated and prolonged exposure during application and removal. Aside from the immediate costs of additional equipment, long-term health risks to employees are a real concern. Further compliance with ensuring operatives are properly trained and fully equipped with the right gear to prevent extensive exposure adds to the cost of using lead-chromate within road marking materials.
However, solutions are available and they work. Since our initiative began, we have successfully eliminated lead chromate pigments from our road marking materials and have found alternative sources that continue to exhibit stability even in high-heat and UV exposure. Finding substitutes is not only beneficial for our environment and for any individual who comes in contact, but it also can be cost-effective. Alternatives do not have to be expensive to work, and the cost is far less than exposing populations through contaminated soil and waterways.
As part of our company ethos, we believe that it is our job to provide the safest material – not only for the benefit of road users, but for all who come in contact with the material. We want to encourage all purchasers and users to keep themselves, their crews, the community, and the surrounding environment safe by switching to only lead-free thermoplastic road markings.
As industry leaders, we want to encourage others in the traffic safety industry to seek alternatives to lead chromate pigments and support the movement to increase safety for all users and our fragile environment.
In order to fully eliminate the risks of lead contamination, it starts with us – the specifiers, roads authorities, contractors, manufacturers and suppliers, to make the necessary changes to ensure safety is always a part of the traffic safety industry.