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"Nickel Sulfamate Plating ventilation & safety issues"

Current question:

July 17, 2021 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hello. Does a nickel sulfamate bath require ventilation? There is no agitation, bath is about 4'x 5', in a small ~600 SF room. I've been told sulfamate nickel baths are generally less concerning that other techniques, but I want to make sure I have a proper HVAC system in place for the room. My client is pushing for zero exhaust, and to share an existing HVAC unit conditioning other office areas. My first reaction is that there are risks here to strongly consider before moving forward.

Thank you.

Jim DiPasquale
- Rochester, New York

nickel book
The Sulphamate Nickel How-To Guide

by David Crotty, PhD & Robert Probert

July 2021

A. Hi Jim. Times change and I personally feel that they have changed to the point where nickel sulphamate tanks need local exhaust regardless of operating conditions.

If the open surface is 4 foot even the short way, this will have to be a push-pull system, not two-sided pull. If there is no agitation and the operating temperature is low, this can be a very small system, probably 40 CFM per square foot of tank surface. In any case, you should not have a return air duct from the plating area to the general air conditioning system.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

July 21, 2021

A. Hi Jim
As much as I know, Nickel Sulfamate bath is operated at elevated temperatures 100-140 °F. There will be some evaporation from the bath.
Also, it looks a little strange to not have a liquid movement in such bath (circulation or agitation).
In these days, it is pretty common to have almost any chemical bath exhausted, especially when you have ~20 square feet of open bath surface. I would definitely prefer an exhaust above such tank.
By the way, SDS of one reputable Nickel Sulfamate supplier says that if inhaled it may cause asthma symptoms or allergy or breathing difficulties.
Good luck

Leon Gusak
- Winnipeg, Canada

Closely related historical postings, oldest first:


Q. I would like to know what health concerns, if any, we should be addressing in our Nickel Sulfamate electroplating room, other than contact dermatitis. We do not have positive pressure in the room, nor are the tanks, 12 of them, under any type of fume hood. The tanks are heated to about 120 F and there is mechanical agitation in each tank. The room has a very high ceiling and we have noticed a slight "green" coloration around each of the vents supplying air to the room. Could there be any Nickel Sulfamate "mist" in the room" I understand that the Nickel Sulfamate does not evaporate, just the water, from each tank. Also the tanks are not covered since each tank is in use 24/7. Any help would be appreciated, including links to research this more. Thank you.

Jack P. Honore III
Manager - Robbinsville, New Jersey

simultaneous 2007

A. EPA might be concerned, but OSHA very probably will be concerned. You really need ventilation hoods for Sulfamate nickel. It is not a lot, but it is needed and or mandated.
Gas evolution carries a micro sized particle of nickel solution with it, so yes you are losing nickel solution to your shop atmosphere.
It is not good for the long term health of your employees.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


A. To the best of my knowledge, that process is pretty efficient at both anode and cathode. So, not a lot in the way of mist-making gassing. And, the bath components aren't volatile. I don't think you have a lot to worry about.

I've generally seen these tanks operated without fume hoods.

dave wichern
Dave Wichern
Consultant - The Bronx, New York


A. Until maybe 15 years ago I never saw a nickel plating tank ventilated. But it's not a rarity anymore. Although the "fumes" that come off of a 140 °F nickel tank are mostly steam, most nickel plating tanks have intense air agitation so it's not unusual to see green salts accumulated in the vicinity of the tanks and to smell nickel. It's possible that the slight green you are seeing near the ceiling is nickel; if you can analyze a scraping, you may find the answer. It would probably be best to retain an air sampling firm to run some "personnel exposure badges" to check that there is no significant nickel in the atmosphere.

Unfortunately you're in New Jersey, and tragically we've gone to "self funded" environmental enforcement agencies (funded largely by fines rather than by general state budget), so they must figure out a way to fine people no matter what they do. Sorry for the rant, but I just got off the phone with yet another local plating shop calling this morning to say they're closing. That's three in NJ in just the last six months that I know of :-(   I'm sure this has resulted in zero reduction in DEP personnel, just the need to extract the same total in fines from ever fewer shops; so there's little doubt what inevitably must happen here :-)

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. Jack,
Yes, there is a mist that evolves from sulphamate Ni tanks that is a health concern. The tanks should be vented. Your equipment and chemical supplier should had made that clear to you before installation. Look on your MSDS and it will give you the limits and health concern data. I know N.J. is tough on air discharge limits, so some research must be done. Don't delay too long, big brother will eventually pay you a visit. Good Luck!

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Syracuse, New York


A. In theory no nickel should come out of a nickel sulphamate solution purely by evaporation - the only thing that should come off is water vapour. However, when the tank is agitated, droplets of the plating solution will get into the atmosphere. To overcome this, the tanks should be ventilated - the best way is to have a cross flow ventilation (also known as push-pull extraction), so none of the electrolyte escapes. If your tank is not ventilated you will certainly be losing nickel solution into the atmosphere. You can check this with a Draeger tube or personal air sampling systems.
Exposure to nickel can cause problems to about 10-15% of the population and ultimately make then sensistised. The first stage is "nickel itch", which is type of dermatitis, but continued exposure can result in the antibodies getting into the lymphatic system and then the allergic response can break out anywhere on the body. The final stage is when the subject just needs to be briefly exposed to nickel and they come out in blotches and eczema anywhere on them; there have ben suggestions that this can be induced by inhalation of nickel in the atmosphere. It is quite correct for the regulatory authorities to be hot on nickel exposure, as it is a very nasty disease that has no cure. The only treatment is to avoid the problem and if it does erupt, a course of steroids may help suppress the effects.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK


thumbs up sign Thanks to everyone who provided me with such valuable information. We plan on have some air monitoring to see just where we stand. Operator safety is number one so we are moving on this ASAP. Again, thanks.

Jack P Honore III [returning]
- Robbinsville, New Jersey

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