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Minnesota Gets the Lead Out of Wheel Weights

August 13, 2008

Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Both state and local governments in Minnesota are phasing out lead in wheel weights, switching to environmentally preferable alternatives.  The latest edition of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s quarterly Buying Green newsletter chronicles the efforts by various jurisdictions.  According to the newsletter:

Although lead has long been banned from paint and gasoline, every year an estimated 2,000 tons of it falls from vehicles onto U.S. roadways in the form of lead wheel weights. Lead is a toxic metal, which negatively impacts human health and the environment. The European Union banned the use of lead wheel weights in 2005, and U.S. states and counties, including Minnesota, are also taking steps to go lead-free.

Minnesota’s Travel Management Division began studying the feasibility of using non-lead wheel weights in 2003. After testing several alternatives, they first chose a clip-on iron weight before turning to an adhesive weight that could fit various sized rims (the clip-on weights had to be sized to fit), and was designed by a local manufacturer. 

Cities and counties in Minnesota are also going lead-free. In 2007, Hennepin County’s environmental services department began working with its equipment division to find lead-free alternatives.  The county researched lead-free wheel weight alternatives, requested product demonstrations and checked local availability and cost of alternative weights. They ultimately settled on clip-on steel weights and began using them in fleet maintenance and operations beginning in August 2007.

Washington County’s Public Works department opted for steel clip-on weights, as well.  The county plans to replace lead weights with steel weights as cars come in for tire maintenance.  Minneapolis is using zinc clip-on wheel weights, while Bloomington is using adhesive tape wheel weights developed by 3M for their fleet.

 

To learn more about how your options for switching to lead-free wheel weights, see RPN’s Responsible Purchasing Guide for Light-Duty Tires and Wheel Weights. This guide provides information and recommendations on responsible purchasing, use, and disposal of tires and wheel weights with emphasis on low rolling resistance (LRR) tires, retread tires, and lead-free wheel weights.

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