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California Clips Off Lead Wheel Weights

August 25, 2008

Source: Los Angeles Times

Lead wheel weights will be phased out in California by the end of 2009, in accordance with a court settlement.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) against Chrysler and the three largest makers of lead wheel weights for the U.S. market. According to CEH executive director, Michael Green, "Wheel weights have been identified as the largest new route of lead releases into the environment. By moving the industry away from leaded wheel weights, we are helping to keep the lead out of our kids' drinking water."

Light-duty vehicles in the U.S. have, on average, 4.5 ounces of lead clipped onto tires for wheel balancing.  Around 2,000 tons of lead is dropped onto U.S. roadways every year as wheel weights fall from vehicle tires, mostly in urban environments due to poor road conditions and less fluid driving styles (e.g., potholes, more turns, more stops and starts). Altenatives to lead wheel weights include weights made from steel, zinc, copper, tin, and plastic.

Lead wheel weights were banned by the European Union in 2005.  Japan and South Korea are phasing them out, as well.  Several U.S. jurisdictions, including Minnesota, are also taking steps to move away from lead wheel weights. 

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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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