August 12, 2022
Jim Farley, CEO Ford Motor Company
Akio Toyoda, CEO Toyota
Mary Barra, CEO General Motors
Carlos Tavares, CEO Stellantis
RJ Scaringe, CEO Rivian
Dear Automaker CEOs,
Between July 30 and August 1, 2022, an auto parts supplier, Tribar Manufacturing, discharged a large amount of hexavalent chromium to the Huron River watershed in southeast Michigan. The release has closed businesses, shut down recreational use of the river, and threatens to poison the drinking water of more than 120,000 people downstream.
Tribar is reported to be a supplier of Ford, GM, Toyota, Stellantis, Rivian, and other companies. But this tragic event is not about one company.
Hexavalent chromium should not be used in the auto industry. It is a clear and present danger to workers, watersheds, and communities. Banning hexavalent chromium will not ban chrome parts. It will ban the most hazardous process utilized to make chrome parts. Safer alternatives are available and in use. Not only do these alternatives eliminate hexavalent chromium, they remove the need for PFAS and other toxic mist suppressants that protect workers from this form of chromium.
Hexavalent chromium is a carcinogen and a reproductive toxicant for both males and females. Accordingly, it was added to California's Proposition 65 list of toxic substances in December 2008. Exposure to hexavalent chromium occurs through breathing, ingestion, and contact with the skin. Although most of the known health impacts are related to inhalation, there is now strong data linking ingestion of hexavalent chromium, such as through drinking water, to severe health effects. In addition to cancer and reproductive harm, short and long-term exposures can lead to eye and respiratory irritation, asthma attacks, nasal ulcers, dermal burns, anemia, acute gastroenteritis, vertigo, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, convulsions, ulcers, and damage or failure of the liver and kidneys.
We call on your companies to immediately cease doing business with, or utilizing parts from any supplier using hexavalent chromium, including Tribar. These facilities violate industry supply chain standards and endanger worker and environmental health.
Hexavalent chromium is so toxic that an industry-wide global phase-out began in 2000 with the adoption of the European Union’s End of Life Vehicle Directive, which restricted its use in the auto industry, leading to an outright ban in Europe by 2007. Most of the automotive OEMs moved to phase out the chemical’s use through automotive OEM supply chain standards in much of the world. The chemical has also been restricted by other major jurisdictions, including the Department of Defense, which limited its use in 2011; the European Union, which completely banned it in all industries in 2017; the U.S. Army, which banned its use in 2021; and the State of California, whose ban will be finalized by 2024.
There are commercially available substitutes for hexavalent chromium whose performances meet current specifications.
All of your companies have made strong public commitments to sustainability goals, and many of you have prominently advertised your environmental bona fides in product and brand marketing. There is absolutely no excuse for responsible corporate citizens to continue purchasing products from suppliers that use hexavalent chromium.
We call on your companies to immediately cease doing business with, or utilizing parts from, any supplier using hexavalent chromium, including Tribar.
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
For Love of Water (FLOW)
Michigan Environmental Council
Clean Water Action
Sierra Club Crossroads Group
Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Huron River Watershed Council
Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice
Environmental Council of Huron Valley (Eco HV)
Safe Water Engineering, LLC
National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes
Great Lakes Business Network
Michigan Food for All and the Earth Partners
We the People of Detroit