Do-it-yourself boaters may need
professional help to convert to non-copper bottom paint.
maceutical product that has a very rapid
half-life, meaning it disappears quickly in the
water. One of the challenges with copper, he
notes, is that it doesn’t break down quickly.
He adds that “some of the copper manufacturers would argue that it breaks down from
its toxic form to an inert form in a matter
of days.” But Econea, as a biocide, needs a
“booster” in the form of zinc (usually two
percent) and some experts in the boating
industry fear that zinc, too, could eventually
raise environmental concerns.
“There is no real substitute for zinc
because you’re not going to get antifouling
paints that work well enough without it,”
reports Elenor Ekman, marketing manager
for Interlux, which claims to be the first
manufacturer to enter the recreational market with a copper-free antifouling paint,
using Econea as a biocide. Registering a
new biocide in the U.S. is extremely difficult, Ekman says, and can take years
because these compounds are regulated as
pesticides. The EPA must conduct various
toxicity studies and confirm the results to
approve a new product. Each state also regulates antifouling paints as pesticides, adding
another challenge in bringing new products
to market. Indeed, California’s Department
of Pesticide Regulation only approved a
metal-free Sea Hawk paint for use in the
state last November after the company submitted its product to more than two years
of evaluation in addition to the federal EPA
In the case of the Interlux Econea
formulation, the EPA approved it for the
recreational marine market in 2009, after five
years under review. “Econea deters the hard-
shell fouling,” Ekman explains. “Barnacles in
particular don’t like the material and don’t
tend to stick.” The product also uses zinc
omadine as an added biocide to deter soft
fouling organisms such as slime, algae, and
weed. While zinc is certainly a metal that
falls under EPA regulation, it’s also used in
small quantities in dandruff shampoo, chil-
dren’s face paint, and in another very impor-
tant bottom coating, diaper-rash cream.
IS THERE A DIFFERENT WAY?
“I think the future is in non-biocide paints,”
says IRTA’s Dr. Katy Wolf, who conducted
the testing for the Port of San Diego. “Here’s
what everyone did: They went to TBT and
that got banned worldwide so they moved
on to copper, and now copper is causing
problems. The inclination is to move to the
next biocide but that’s just going to cause
problems down the line. So I think you have
to move directly to the non-biocides, but
those are more expensive. First, the coatings
themselves cost more than the copper paint.
Most require that the hull be stripped before
application to provide a proper substrate for
bonding, and this is the highest cost component,” she adds. “The third factor is that
many non-biocide paints must be sprayed
PHOTO: THERESA HARRINGTON
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