A wooden boat moored at a boathouse.

It is important to keep track of which anti-fouling paints you may use, in order not to damage the marine environment.

Anti-fouling paints

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Anti-fouling paints that contain biocides can pose a risk to aquatic organisms. Therefore, it is good to choose other alternatives whenever possible when you need to protect your boat hull from marine growth.

The growth of, for example, algae, mussels and barnacles on boat hulls can be a problem as this increases the boat’s drag in the water and thus the boat’s consumption of fuel and exhaust gas emissions. However, the use of anti-fouling paints with biocides can result in the release of harmful substances into coastal waters where there are sensitive aquatic organisms. Therefore, it is good to find alternatives to anti-fouling paints that contain biocides whenever possible.

Read more about biocides.

Alternatives to anti-fouling paints with biocides

Traditional anti-fouling paints with biocides are toxic to plants and animals found in the water around the boat. Alternatives to paints with biocides can be mechanical methods or paints that prevent fouling through physical means. To reduce the risk that an anti-fouling paint will affect the environment, consider this before you paint:

  • Try to avoid chemically acting anti-fouling paints. Choose mechanical methods to get rid of marine growth whenever possible, such as high-pressure rinsing on land over the boat wash station.
  • Another mechanical method is brush washing in the water (automatic brush washing machine or by hand). However, keep in mind that if you have painted with a soft anti-fouling paint or a paint with biocides, you should avoid brush washers that do not collect sludge under the boat.
  • Other mechanical methods to protect the hull are boat lifts, floating protective barriers, pontoons, and more.
  • There are also anti-fouling paints that only work through physical means. This may be, for example, through the paint forming a surface structure on the hull where marine growth is unable to attach, preventing barnacles, mussels and algae from growing on the hull of the boat. In some cases, these paints can be a good alternative to chemically acting anti-fouling paints. But even physically acting anti-fouling paints can contain harmful substances that can leak into the environment. Therefore, if you are interested in buying a physically acting anti-fouling paint, it is important that you look at the warning label and read the information on the product packaging so that you learn about about how great of a risk the product poses to health and the environment before you buy it. Anti-fouling paints that only work through physical action do not need to be approved by the Swedish Chemicals Agency to be sold and used.
  • If you choose an anti-fouling paint that contains biocides - use only an approved anti-fouling paint with the correct area of use. An approved pesticide has a label on the packaging with a registration number and important information on how to use the product. Follow the instructions for the product and only use the product as intended.

Before you buy an anti-fouling paint with biocides

Anti-fouling paints with biocides need to be authorized by the Swedish Chemicals Agency before they can be sold and used. The reason for this is to protect people and the environment, as chemically acting anti-fouling paints can affect animals and plants other than those you want to keep off your boat hull.

If you would like to buy an anti-fouling paint with biocides, you first need to find out if the product is approved by the Swedish Chemicals Agency. You can determine this by looking at the product’s packaging.

The following information must be found on any approved product:

  • A registration number.
  • Information on conditions of use.
  • Information on which authorisation class the product belongs to.

Products marked with authorisation Class 3 may be used by anyone. No special professional training is required. Products marked with authorisation Class 1 or 2 may only be used by professionals. A distinction is also made between paints intended for ships and paints for leisure boats.

Different conditions on the west coast and east coast

The risk for the growth of barnacles, mussels and algae can vary locally and, above all, varies with the salinity of the water. This means that marine growth is stronger and that there are more growth species on the west coast than the east coast. Therefore, there are different regulations for the use of anti-fouling paints with biocides on the west coast and east coast.

Approved anti-fouling paints for recreational boats on the east coast 2020

Approved anti-fouling paints for recreational boats on the west coast 2020

The anti-fouling paints on the lists are also available in The Swedish Chemicals Agency’s Pesticides Registerexternal link

For the Gulf of Bothnia north of Örskär or in inland waters (freshwater), there are no approved anti-fouling paints. In these waters, you may only use alternative methods to chemically acting anti-fouling paints.

Map of areas where different types of anti-fouling paints are permitted for use. By biocide is meant the active substance found in the chemically acting anti-fouling paints.

Map of areas in Sweden where different types of anti-fouling paints are allowed.

A larger image and print version can be found here (in Swedish).

Information for those who want to import or sell anti-fouling paints/products in Sweden can be found here (in Swedish).

About the conditions of use - main mooring site

Here, conditions of use - “main mooring site” refers to the dedicated, fixed mooring site which you own or lease. If the boat is moored at several moorings that the boat owner has at his or her disposal, one of which is in freshwater or north of Örskär, the boat may not be painted with biocide-containing anti-fouling paint as there are no approved paints for these areas. The main mooring site thus refers to storage of the boat when it is moored in water. Examples of what is not covered by the conditions of use are a temporary stay at a guest harbour, public jetty, shipyard or similar.

For boats that have their so-called main mooring site in the Gulf of Bothnia, north of Örskär, or in inland waters (freshwater), there are no approved anti-fouling paints. There, you may only use products that do not contain biocides and thus do not require approval.

Before you open anti-fouling paint packaging

Once you have chosen your anti-fouling paint and brought it home, there is a lot to consider before you open the product packaging. Anti-fouling paints can contain hazardous substances. Paints with biocides contain one or more active substances, for example copper. In addition, other metals, organic solvents and allergenic substances may be present in the product, and this also applies to physically acting paints.

How to reduce the risk of harm to health and the environment.

  • Use care when painting or removing paint.
  • Wear eye protection, protective clothing, gloves and a mask which all protect against exposure and inhalation of paint and sanding dust.
  • Sanding dust and paint residues must be collected using a tarpaulin or similar and must be treated as hazardous waste and brought to the nearest environmental station together with the packaging.

In case of accident

Call 112 and request Poisons Information if someone has ingested a substance that can cause injury or poisoning or if someone gets such a substance on their skin.

Read about labelling and hazard symbols

Last published 17 February 2021