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Mar Pollut Bull. 2004 Feb;48(3-4):371-7.

Copper emissions from antifouling paint on recreational vessels.

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  • 1Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, 7171 Fenwick Lane, Westminster, CA 92683, USA.


Trace metals, especially copper, are commonly occurring contaminants in harbors and marinas. One source of copper to these environs is copper-based antifouling coatings used on vessel hulls. The objective of this study was to measure dissolved copper contributions from recreational vessel antifouling coatings for both passive leaching and hull cleaning activities. To accomplish this goal, three coating formulations, including hard vinyl, modified epoxy and a biocide free bottom paint were applied on fiberglass panels and placed in a harbor environment. In situ measurements of passive leaching were made using a recirculating dome system. Monthly average flux rates of dissolved copper for the hard vinyl and modified epoxy coatings were 3.7 and 4.3 microg/cm(2)/day, respectively, while flux rates for the biocide free coating was 0.2 microg/cm(2)/day. The highest passive flux rates were measured initially after cleaning activities, rapidly decreasing to a baseline rate within three days, regardless of copper-based coating formulation. Hull cleaning activities generated between 8.6 and 3.8 microg dissolved copper/cm(2)/event for the modified epoxy and hard vinyl coatings, respectively. Aggressive cleaning using an abrasive product doubled the copper emissions from the modified epoxy coating, but produced virtually no change in the much tougher hard vinyl coating. When compared on a mass basis, roughly 95% of copper is emitted during passive leaching compared to hull cleaning activities over a monthly time period for a typical 9.1 m power boat.

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