Hexchecks bringing Awareness
to Insulation Industry
Kavarmat Case Study #1

Why Kavarmat and HexChecks partnered to eliminate hexavalent chromium risk in the high-heat insulation industry

While the risks posed by hexavalent chromium are well understood, its creation is less understood within the high-heat insulation industry, as Mark Sommer, managing director of Polish insulation manufacturer Kavarmat, discovered in 2019.


Founded in 1988 by Karlheinz Sommer, Kavarmat manufactures textile insulation solutions in Poland for use in engines and turbines worldwide. Designed to protect high-temperature installations Kavarmat’s fiberglass cushions reduce heat on outer surfaces to ensure a component’s longevity.

Since 1991, the business’ managing director Markus Sommer has served as its managing director, following his father’s death from lung cancer, due to contact with asbestos. He was just 59 years old.


Questioning the ‘norm’

“At the time, we had contact with insulation dust and even yellowish powder when we were uninstalling blankets,” recalls Markus. “At the time, however, I was always told it was sulfur and it’s normal. We lived more than 40 years with the knowledge that sometimes you would find sulfur. We never understood how it was created – but for the whole industry it was ok.”

Until 2019, when a long-term customer of Kavarmat in Austria reached out to Markus with a concern. “I got an email that they found hexavalent chromium on their machines between the insulation, manifold and other hot parts,” he remembers.

“They asked if our insulation material contains calcium and I remembered my old typewriter in the 1990s when all safety data sheets were written manually. A lot of times I wrote 15 to 20% calcium oxide.”


Starting the journey

Working together with the customer, Markus confirmed that what he thought was sulfur is actually a hexavalent chromium compound.

“We always had our doubts about its creation,” he continues. “Most people are not aware of insulation’s ingredients. During lockdown, we had a bit of time available and I worried that our products were responsible for creating hexavalent chromium.”

During the research that followed, Markus clearly saw “a thermochemical reaction between non-hazardous chromium 3 as an ingredient of stainless steel alloys and calcium oxide as an ingredient of insulation material.”

Research papers confirmed that when temperatures exceed 200C°, there is additional oxygen in the creation process resulting in hazardous Chromium 6.


Understanding the dangers

Through his research, Markus Sommer realized that hexavalent chromium can be produced with common insulation products – even when there is no hazardous material involved in the process – with the application of heat.

For businesses – across dozens of sectors such as power generation, aerospace, automotive and trains – this creates a highly dangerous situation. The Report on Carcinogens lists hexavalent chromium compounds among known carcinogens. Exposure over time leads to harm.

According to OSHA, exposure can lead to a range of issues, including asthma, cancer, dental erosion and discoloration, eye irritation and damage, nasal irritation and damage, perforated eardrums, pulmonary congestion and edema, skin irritation, upper abdominal pain, and ultimately respiratory cancer.

The need for evidence
“Imagine a big sector like ours where someone suddenly tries to inform the world of how chromium 6 is being created by common insulation products,” he adds. “Old friends blocked me and even started to fight against us…”

Markus knew he needed evidence, explaining: “To get that proof, you need to do a chromium 6 test.”

While he had tried a number of kits, he knew he needed a different approach. That’s when a colleague from New Zealand suggested he discuss his needs with Figure Engineering.

About Figure Engineering

Founded in 2007 with a mission to develop advanced manufacturing tools and processes, Figure Engineering seeks to engineer solutions to health and safety challenges, while supporting administrative and PPE controls.

Headquartered just outside of Washington DC, Figure Engineering operates satellite locations around the US Air Force bases where it conducts much of its work.

Over the past decade, the company has had a great deal of success working with the US Department of Defense in identifying alternatives and establishing good mitigation and control methods for hexavalent chromium.

Meet HexChecks

Figure Engineering developed its range of HexChecks products to detect, monitor and eliminate hazards – keeping workers safe. Its tailored solutions are driven by environmental health and safety (EHS), robotics and automation, and materials to deliver novel mission capabilities, reduced process costs, and improved safety.

Instant confirmation

Figure Engineering developed a solution to on-demand spot-checking for hexavalent chromium: HexChecks Cr6+ Test Swabs.

The SBIR-derived product delivers fast, efficient and easy-to-use spot and surface testing.

Easy hex chrome spot checking

Engineered to meet the needs of Department of Defense (DoD) maintenance, repair and overall operations (MRO), the swabs quickly provide clear visual confirmation of hexavalent chromium by turning pink when its presence is detected. The darker the color, the higher the concentration level identified.

Reliable, accurate results

Available in a range of quantities (from 10 to 2800 tests), HexChecks testing swabs offer accurate results, thanks to outstanding sensitivity of <0.1 microgram on solid surfaces.

Single-handed operation

For Markus Sommer, these kits stand out from the competition. He explains: “Unlike others which require two hands, [HexChecks] only needs one.”

He continues: “If you’re working in a laboratory, two hands is not a problem. If you’re standing on top of an engine and spot something, however, being able to verify with one hand – in just two clicks – is great.”


Instant confirmation of hexavalent chromium
Instant confirmation of hexavalent chromium
Ease to use – simply swipe with one hand and check
Reduced exposure to hazardous material for Kavarmat and its customers
Easier way to raise awareness throughout the insulation industry

Since he began testing with HexChecks Cr6+ Test Swabs, Markus Sommer has not looked back. HexChecks and Figure Engineering have provided both him and his clients with the answers they need about the presence of hexavalent chromium within the workplace.

As part of its mission to eliminate insulation that causes cancer, Markus and his team at Kavarmat rely on the HexChecks Swabs and HexChecks Hexavalent Chrome Neutralizer to keep their customers working in maximum safety.

To discover how HexChecks can protect your workforce, visit www.hexchecks.com to learn more and purchase. Alternatively, contact info@hexchecks.com to discuss your needs.

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