Excerpt from the October 1992 article from Concrete Construction by Marilyn Palmer
New types of form release agents comply with latest environmental and safety regulations
Environmental concerns and worker health and safety issues influence many aspects of the construction industry. The use of form release agents is no exception. Where once a contractor could use a few gallons of diesel fuel from the local filling station, regulations may now require the use of a volatile organic compound (VOC)-compliant form release agent.
Traditionally, form release agents have been grouped into these categories: petroleum oils, emulsions, nonreactive coatings with volatile solvents, waxes, and chemically active agents. Many newer form release agents, however, do not fit neatly into one of these categories. For example, an emulsion and a chemically reactive ingredient may be combined in one product to gain the advantages of both. Though products in these categories are still available, environmental regulations are steering the form release agent industry toward producing products with fewer VOCs.
Proper application of a water-based, chemically active form release agent can yield a smooth, relatively unblemished concrete surface.
Lower VOC levels and hazard ratings
Many of the new types of water-based form release agents are the industry’s answer to the latest environmental and safety regulations for VOC levels, toxicity, carcinogens, flammability, and hazard ratings. A few oil-based agents on the market also comply with the new regulations.
Lower VOC levels are a key feature of the latest water-based agents. The products produce fewer aerosols and help to minimize odors, air contamination, and damage to the ozone layer. Workers breathe fewer vapors and generally have fewer skin irritations. Water-based products are nonflammable and have low hazardous material ratings for transportation, storage, and personal protection. Several are biodegradable, allowing product and container disposal in non-hazardous landfills.
Other advantages of water-based agents
Most water-based release agents contain a chemically reactive ingredient that forms a barrier film between the form and the concrete to inhibit adhesion. Manufacturers claim the chemical reaction at the form concrete interface minimizes bugholes and staining of the concrete, producing a smooth, relatively blemish-free finish that requires little touch-up. Many water-based products are nonresidual and will not adversely affect subsequent use of curing agents, sealers, and coatings applied to the formed concrete.
Form type compatibility claims for water-based agents show few limitations. Manufacturers indicate some agents should not be used with expanded polystyrene or natural rubber forms. To ensure adequate compatibility, apply the agent to a test panel under actual job conditions.
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