Antifouling paints leach copper in excess – study of metal release rates and efficacy along a salinity gradient
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2020
Antifouling paints are biocidal products applied to ship and boat hulls in order to prevent the growth and settlement of marine organisms, i.e. fouling. The release of biocides from the surface of the paint film act to repel or poison potential settling organisms. Currently, the most commonly used biocide in antifouling paints is cuprous oxide. In the EU, antifouling products are regulated under the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR), which states that the recommended dose should be the minimum necessary to achieve the desired effect. For antifouling products, the dose is measured as the release rate of biocide(s) from coating. In this study, the release rates of copper and zinc from eight different coatings for leisure boats were determined through static exposure of coated panels in four different harbors located in Swedish waters along a salinity gradient ranging from 0 to 27 PSU. The results showed the release rate of copper to increase with increasing salinity. Paints with a higher content of cuprous oxide were also found to release larger amounts of copper. The coatings’ ability to prevent biofouling was also evaluated and no significant difference in efficacy between the eight tested products was observed at the brackish and marine sites. Hence, the products with high release rates of copper were equally efficient as those with 4 – 6 times lower releases. These findings suggest that current antifouling paints on the market are leaching copper in excess of the effective dose in brackish and marine waters. Additionally, the results from the freshwater site showed no benefit in applying a copper-containing paint for the purpose of fouling prevention. This indicates that the use of biocidal paints in freshwater bodies potentially results in an unnecessary release of copper. By reducing the release rates of copper from antifouling paints in marine waters and restricting the use of biocidal paints in freshwater, the load of copper to the environment could be substantially reduced.