[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

E-M:/ Chrysler, Wheel Weight Makers Agree to Eliminate Lead in California

Title: Chrysler, Wheel Weight Makers Agree to Eliminate Lead in C
Great news out of California.  However, we still will need phaseout/bans of lead wheel weights in other states, including Michigan.

See also the story in the LA Times:  http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-wheels21-2008aug21,1,1502658.stor

August 20, 2008

CONTACT: Caroline Cox, CEH, 510-654-4492 x308, 541-654-2626 (cell); Jeff Gearhart, Ecology Center, 734-945-7738
Chrysler, Wheel Weight Makers Agree to Eliminate Lead

Water Pollution Threat from Lead-based Wheel Weights Forces Companies to Reformulate Products for the California Market

Oakland, CA - The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) today announced it has reached a legal agreement with Chrysler and the three largest producers of automobile wheel weights, requiring the companies to end the use of leaded wheel weights in California by the end of 2009. The landmark agreement marks the first-ever legally binding statewide rule phasing out lead in wheel weights in the U.S., and will end the annual release of 500,000 pounds of lead into the environment in California, which occurs when wheel weights break off of automobile wheels.

Last August, CEH launched its legal action against Chrysler, Perfect Equipment, Inc, Hennessey Industries, and Plombco Inc, due to the threat to the state's drinking water from wheel weights that fall from cars and trucks. "Wheel weights have been identified as the largest new route of lead releases into the environment," said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. "By moving the industry away from leaded wheel weights, we are helping to keep the lead out of our kids' drinking water."

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), about 65,000 tons of lead wheel weights are in use on cars and trucks in the U.S., and it is estimated that at least 3% of wheel weights fall off of cars and trucks. USGS states that the discarded wheel weights "drop to the road surface where they become abraded by vehicle traffic, eventually becoming dissipated into the environment by wind and storm water."

A peer-reviewed study in 2000 found that lead pollution from wheel weights "is continuous, significant, and widespread, and is potentially a major source of human lead exposure." The study noted that the highest rate of lead deposition likely occurs in urban areas, posing a significant lead poisoning threat to poor and minority populations that are already disproportionately impacted by other sources of lead.

While Chrysler had lagged behind most car makers in switching to non-leaded wheel weights for their new cars, Chrysler is now quickly phasing out the use of lead as a result of CEH's action. In addition, aftermarket repair shops still often use leaded weights when they balance auto wheels and/or replace tires. Just this month, a Hennessey spokesperson told Tire Business that leaded wheel weights are still "the major part of our wheel weight business."  This will no longer be the case in California due to CEH's efforts.

The Ecology Center, based in Ann Arbor Michigan, has worked for several years to expose the problem of lead wheel weights and advocate for alternatives, and runs the web site
http://www.leadfreewheels.org/ . "This settlement represents the beginning of the end for lead wheel balancing weights in US," said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center.  "We fully expect dozens of states to follow California's leadership & ban the use of lead wheel weights."

In 2005, the Ecology Center petitioned EPA under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), calling for a federal ban on lead wheel weights. Lead wheel weights have been banned in the EU since July 2005, and Japan and Korea are phasing them out. Yet EPA has refused to enact a ban, instead relying on voluntary industry action. "It is simply scandalous that three years after the rest of the world banned toxic lead weights, the U.S. continues to allow their use," said Gearhart.  "It's time fix our failed regulatory system in the U.S." A Hennessey spokesman recently stated that due to the price difference between lead and safer alternatives, "[I]t will be hard to change the market [to lead-free wheel weights] without legislation."

Washington, Maine and Massachusetts have considered such legislation, but the CEH settlement creates the first binding statewide ban on shipments from the major wheel weight suppliers. Some municipalities have eliminated lead on wheel weights on their local fleets, and the U.S. Air Force and Postal Service have taken action to eliminate lead wheel weights from their fleets.

Jeff Gearhart - Ecology Center

(734)663-2400 x117
(734)663-2414 fx.