Lead wheel weights to be phased out in California

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Oakland, Calif.- based Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has reached a legal agreement with Chrysler and the three largest producers of lead wheel balancing weights for the U.S. market (Plombco Inc., Perfect Equipment Inc. and Hennessy Industries), requiring the companies to end the use of leaded wheel weights in California by the end of 2009.


The settlement ends a lawsuit filed by the CEH against Chrysler and the three lead weight producers. The group contends the agreement will prevent the release of 500,000 pounds of lead into the environment in California, which occurs when wheel weights break off of vehicle wheels.


The CEH reports, "Wheel weights have been identified as the largest new route of lead releases into the environment," says Michael Green, executive director. "By moving the industry away from leaded wheel weights, we are helping to keep the lead out of our kids' drinking water."


The CEH reports, "While the companies maintain that wheel weights do not pose an environmental threat, they have agreed to phase out their use of lead and are all now producing lead-free products as an environmentally safe alternative."


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


Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause brain damage, nervous-system disorders, gastrointestinal disease, reproduction problems and other health concerns.


Lead wheel weights have been banned in the European Union since 2005, and Japan and Korea are phasing them out.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not banned the use of lead wheel weights, but is sponsoring a voluntary initiative to reduce their use.


The CEH reports that under the agreement, "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% 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."


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