Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law legislation which bans the manufacture, sale and use of lead wheel weights in California effective January 1, 2010. The automakers have agreed to stop using the weights as original equipment, and the three major manufacturers of wheel weights in the United States will stop distributing lead weights in California by the end of 2009.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched a voluntary nationwide initiative in 2008 and began a rulemaking process this summer which may eventually translate into a mandatory federal ban. The weights have been banned in the European Union since 2005.
At issue is concern that the weights fall off tires and become environmental hazards or are contaminants in the metal recycling process. In the environment, the weights may be ground into fine dust particles and turn into lead oxides, hydroxides or bicarbonates. Lead particles and chemical combinations also pose the risk of contaminating surface and ground water supplies.
Automakers, tire makers and the aftermarket are turning to three main substitute materials: steel, zinc or composites. For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein.