Corrosion is an eyesore. Few will argue that. But while it may be an unsightly occurrence, looks are nothing compared to the potentially devastating health and safety effects of unchecked corrosion. Furthermore, it’s the corrosion that goes unseen that’s often the most dangerous. Governments and asset owners are not always pleased when it comes time to re-up on their structure’s corrosion defenses, but not doing so will undoubtedly prove more costly in the long run.

It’s those costs, both in monetary and in health and safety terms, that makes what we do here at Thomas Industrial Coatings about more than just coatings. It’s about protecting the infrastructure that allows us to continue with business as usual, most of us without giving much of a thought to corrosion.

Corrosion and public safety

Not all corrosion is created equal. Some types of corrosion are better able to escape notice than others. These represent the largest hazard to human health and safety because, when they occur, they are able to degrade an asset to the point of failure before they’re even noticed. While ugly, generalized corrosion is usually easy to spot and hence more likely to be dealt with before a serious failure occurs.

The steel rebar that supports our highways, the steel beams and trusses beneath our bridges, the pipes and tanks that hold our drinking water— all are susceptible to localized corrosion that can be both difficult to detect and expensive to repair. Without repair, roadways can crumble, bridges can collapse and drinking water can become contaminated, all threatening the well-being of the general public.

Corrosion in dollars

It’s probably unsurprising to most of us that corrosion costs money. What may be a surprise is exactly how much money it costs the country. According to SSPC, corrosion of metals cost about $276 billion annually. NACE estimates that unmitigated corrosion costs the U.S. economy roughly 3.1 percent of the country’s total GDP.

Many studies have been dedicated to the cost and prevention of corrosion in the food and beverage industries. When it occurs on cooling and cooking equipment, food is in danger of being contaminated. Some studies place the costs associated with keeping stainless steel kitchen equipment in the billions of dollars.

Given the costs of unchecked corrosion, it’s no surprise that a lot of money is also spent on preventing it from occurring in the first place. NACE also estimates that, on average, $100.5 billion is spent annually on the raw materials and labor to combat corrosion.

Because it’s typically far more expensive to coat a new structure than to re-coat and repair an existing one, regular coatings maintenance represents a huge opportunity to reduce overall corrosion-related expenditures. Current best practices in the corrosion industry are estimated to save billions of dollars annually in damages. Technological breakthroughs in the maintenance of oil and gas pipelines, highway bridges and water and wastewater treatment plants have greatly increased the returns proactive corrosion prevention strategies deliver to these industries.

For more on what corrosion costs the economy, and the many ways in which corrosion control benefits it, check out this post we wrote last year on the real costs of corrosion.

The right contractor is an essential defense against corrosion damage. To find out what makes a contractor “the right one,” download the guide through the link below.

What does corrosion cost?