Case Study: Elimination of Hexavalent Chrome in the Power Plant Insulation High Heat Applications

Kavarmat and Figure Engineering partnered to eliminate hexavalent chromium risk in the high-heat insulation industry.

Kavarmat understands the dangers of hexavalent chromium – first-hand. Mark Sommer, managing director of Polish insulation manufacturer Kavarmat, discovered hexavalent chromium can be produced by common insulation products – even when there is no hazardous material in the involved. He turned to Figure Engineering’s HexChecks to ensure his customers’ safety and peace of mind.


Founded in 1988 by Karlheinz Sommer, Kavarmat manufactures textile insulation solutions in Poland for use in engines and turbines worldwide. Kavarmat’s fibreglass cushions reduce heat on outer surfaces to ensure component longevity – even in the high temperatures.

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

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Recognizing the danger

After decades of noticing and questioning the presence of a yellow powder residue on existing insulation during replacement, Markus realized it was not the sulfur that “experts” in the field told him it was.

He recalls: “In 2019, I got an email from a customer in Austria. They had found hexavalent chromium on their machines between the insulation, manifold and other hot parts.”

Working in partnership with his customer, Markus made a disturbing discovery. What he thought was sulfur was – in actuality – a hexavalent chromium compound. “I worried that our products were responsible,” he explains. Concerned about the role his company’s products played in its creation, Markus set out to find the source of the carcinogen.

Markus noted a clear “thermochemical reaction between chromium 3 as an ingredient of stainless steel alloys and calcium oxide as an ingredient of insulation material.” Remembering that back in the 1990s his insulation contained between 15 and 20% calcium oxide, he continued developing his research. Academic studies confirmed that when temperatures exceed 250C° – releasing additional oxygen.


Recognizing the risk

Markus Sommer’s examination revealed that common insulation products – even those not containing the hazardous material-can produce hexavalent chromium in the presence of high temperatures.

With dozens of industries potentially affected- including aerospace, automotive and trains, Markus recognized the dangers their workers face. Hexavalent chromium compounds feature in the National Institute of Health’s Report on Carcinogens. As a known carcinogen, any exposure over time results in harm.

OSHA advises that exposure can result in a range of issues.These include: asthma, cancer, dental erosion and discoloration, eye irritation and damage, nasal irritation and damage, perforated eardrums, pulmonary congestion and edema, respiratory cancer, skin irritation and upper abdominal pain. Direct contact with hexavalent chromium is known to result in a skin reaction: allergic contact dermatitis.

Wanted: a complete solution
Kavarmat offers a range of green insulation products. Unlike many high-temperature insulation utilized by industry, these materials do not contribute to creating hex chrome.However, as Markus recognizes, most businesses remain at risk from the dangers, explaining: “Many users of commonly-used, high-temperature insulation products are unaware of the risks they pose.

“That’s why a complete solution is so important. That starts with the proof customers need to take action, followed by the ability to neutralize the threat before introducing a product like ours that eliminates the risk of hex chrome moving forward.” In 2021, Markus first learned about Figure Engineering from a colleague and has not looked back since.


About Figure Engineering

Founded in 2007 with a mission to develop advanced manufacturing tools and process, 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 ocations around the US Air Force bases where it conducts a lot of 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. Keep hex chrome in check After listening to Markus’ story and his concerns about safety across multiple industries, Figure Engineering sought to create a complete solution capable of keeping hexavalent chromium in check. Figure Engineering responded with HexChecks, an innovative range of test swabs and neutralizer products capable of identifying, monitoring and eliminating Cr6+ in the workplace.

Step one: On-the-spot detection
While engineers need the ability to test quickly and easily, detection options are limited. Markus explains: “Most were designed for laboratory use and required two hands to conduct the test. That’s not ideal when you are standing on top of equipment and spot something.” In developing HexChecks CR6+ Test Swabs, the priority was the creation of a spot and surface test that is fast, efficient, and easy to use.

For Markus, the testing swabs are a “game changer” – thanks to their single-handed operation. “It allows engineers to investigate a concern in just two clicks. It’s great.” Designed to meet the requirements of Department of Defense (DoD) maintenance, repair and overall operations, the SBIR-derived swabs quickly deliver clear visual confirmation of hexavalent chromium. When detected, swabs turn pink. Importantly, the depth of color reflects the concentration present: the darker and more intense, the higher the level.The testing swabs are available in a range of sizes (1 to >280) and provide a high degree of accuracy, offering a sensitivity of & lt;0.1 microgram on solid surfaces. Markus adds: “In my opinion, every engineer working with components wrapped in high-heat insulation should have a pack of swabs in their kit!”

Step two: neutralization in 10 seconds
“Once hexavalent chromium is detected, it should be neutralized immediately to limit exposure and enhance safety,” advises Markus. With this in mind, Figure Engineering developed HexChecks neutralizer, the market’s first commercial neutralizer designed for hexavalent chromium. As a known carcinogen, any exposure over time is harmful.

Markus refers to this product as the ‘Hex Chrome Killer’, a nod to its powerful ability to eliminate the threat. The concentrate is available in a range of sizes (up to 1 gallon), as well as in starter kits, and is easy to use. Once diluted with water, the neutralizer solution is applied on suspected areas until wet. After standing for 10 seconds, it can be wiped away easily by an engineer. For best practice, Figure Engineering recommends immediately retesting the site to confirm the elimination of the threat.

Step three: substitution of high-temperature insulation containing calcium
Following neutralization, existing high-temperature insulation containing calcium needs to be replaced to prevent future creation of the carcinogenic and environmentally toxic calcium chromate. “Our high-temperature quartz fiber mats and cushions are calcium-free to ensure a safer future for businesses, as well as their workforces,” explains the Kavarmat managing director. “Making the switch to calcium-free insulation does more than demonstrate your concern for your people and the environment. It means you are complying with international regulations governing occupational safety and environmental protection.”


Complete approach to eliminate hexavalent chromium risk in the workplace.
Confident compliance with occupational safety and environmental protections
Contributes to sustainability
Easy and Instant confirmation of CR6+
Neutralization of hex chrome threats in 10 seconds
Reduced exposure to hazardous materials for Kavarmat and its customers

As part of Kavarmat’s mission to eliminate insulation that creates known carcinogens, Markus and his team trust HexChecks to keep their customers’ operations safe and legal.

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

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