According to ASM International, the professional group formerly known as the American Society for Metals, rust damage causes $300 billion in damage to the U.S. economy each year. And this astronomical dollar amount only reflects the quantifiable damages, like repairing bridges, replacing pipes, and fixing rust damage on cars.
Other impacts, like the effects of rust on worker health and public safety, are impossible to measure, but are also serious causes for concern as well.
“For example, the sudden collapse because of corrosion fatigue of the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, OH in 1967 resulted in the loss of 46 lives and cost millions of dollars.”
Measuring the Economic Costs of Rust and Corrosion: 6 Types of Damage Caused by Rust
Corrosion isn’t an overnight process, which is why it’s so hard to comprehend the amount of damages that it causes year-round.
According to ASM International’s report, titled “The Effects and Economic Impact of Corrosion,” the most dangerous corrosion happens in industrial plants, which can completely shut down from corrosive damage.
So how does something as simple as rust cause $300 billion in damage?
- Replacing corroded equipment
- Over-designing structures and products to account for inevitable corrosion
Preventive maintenance like painting, industrial coatings, and wear-resistant coatings
The total shutdown of industrial equipment
- Product contamination
- Efficiency loss, which occurs when certain industrial coatings make machinery less effective
- Decreased value — when a component has corroded, its value is permanently decreased (think of an old, rusted car)
- Damage of equipment adjacent to the corrosive material — rust and corrosion is likely to spread to other components in the same proximity
These damages are just some of the reasons why industrial coatings and DLC coating equipment is so important. With the right industrial coating equipment, most mechanical components can be covered with coatings that prevent rust and corrosion, among other damages.
In large part because rust damage is so expensive, the U.S. industrial maintenance coating industry was worth $1.3 billion in 2014. And because of rising demand for coating equipment, the technology continues to improve.
Avoiding Rust and Corrosion in Industrial Settings
Not only does corrosion cause $300 billion worth of damage to the U.S. economy every year, but avoidable corrosion makes up a huge portion of that $300 billion figure.
In the 1970s, at least 40% of rust damage could be classified as avoidable corrosion. Fortunately, thanks to improved metal coatings and metal coating equipment, progress is being made. In the 21st century, only about 35% of corrosion damage can be described as avoidable. Even so, that adds up to more than $100 billion. That’s more than the annual U.S. exports in paint and coating materials — $2.3 billion — by nearly 50 times.
Avoidable corrosion damages include things like exposure to liquid or moisture and exposure to high-temperature gases.
Given the fact that many industrial settings experience both high temperatures and high moisture from submersion or vapor, industrial plants are at high risk of corrosion. But even in these cases, most corrosion is avoidable.
Other types of corrosion costs are also avoidable. While many structures are designed to last, like bridges, significant maintenance and industrial coatings need to be applied to these structures to keep them in shape.
Back in 1967, the Silver Bridge, an aluminum-painted eyebar-chain suspension bridge that connected Point Pleasant, WV, to Gallipolis, OH, collapsed during rush hour traffic. The collapse sent vehicles plummeting into the Ohio River, killing 46 people.
What went wrong?
The Silver Bridge carried much more weight than it was meant to hold, and therefore became exceedingly stressed. Due to poor maintenance and neglect (the bridge was built in 1928), it failed. With regular maintenance and the addition of the right metal coatings, the Silver Bridge failure could have been avoided.
Across industries, the right metal coatings are necessary to prevent these types of disasters. Industrial coatings not only protect the metal components from oxidizing, but from other damages as well.