The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) in Oakland, Calif., announced it has reached a legal agreement with Chrysler and the three largest producers of automobile wheel-balancing weights (Plombco, Hennessey, and Perfect Equipment), requiring the companies to end the use of leaded wheel weights in California by the end of 2009.
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 percent of wheel weights fall off of cars and trucks. USGS states that the discarded wheel weights are ground by traffic and the particles are dispersed by wind and rain, eventually finding their way into the water supply. By the CEH's estimates, an annual 500,000 pounds of lead are introduced into California alone due to lost 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. 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.
Under the settlement, Plombco will end shipments of leaded wheel weights into California by the end of this year; Hennessey and Perfect Equipment agreed to end shipments by the end of 2009. Chrysler is now quickly phasing out the use of lead wheel weights nationwide, due in part to CEH's action. Also under the agreement, Chrysler is required to eliminate its use of leaded wheel weights on 55 percent of its automobiles by the end of July, and the company says it has already exceeded that goal. The settlement requires Chrysler to fully eliminate lead in wheel weights on cars intended for sale in California by July 31, 2009.