SACRAMENTO, CA -- The California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved a measure banning the use of hexavalent chromium and cadmium in coatings for motor vehicles and mobile equipment, effective Jan. 1, 2003.

The regulation prohibits the sale and use in California of any motor vehicle and/or mobile equipment coating that contains hexavalent chromium or cadmium. The rule includes a six-month "sell through" allowing the use of existing inventories, and a 12-month sell-through period for auto-body and paint shop inventories.

The agency said the action was being taken to reduce "the significant cancer risk that occurs at low exposure levels." CARB identified hexavalent chromium and cadmium as toxic air contaminants more than 10 years ago. In 1996, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the Antelope Valley Air Pollution Control District prohibited the use of automotive coatings that contain hexavalent chromium or cadmium.

Statewide, CARB said its estimates show that 99 percent of the auto-body repair and refinishing facilities in the state already use chromium- and cadmium-free coatings. The agency said the prohibition of chromated and cadmium-containing automotive coatings is not expected to have a noticeable cost impact on most manufacturers and marketers of automotive coatings.