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CEOs meet to review progress on global tire industry project

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Chief executive officers representing tire manufacturers from the United States, Japan, Korea and Europe met June 12 in Tokyo to review environmental and health issues associated with their products.

The multi-year research program was organized under the auspices of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a non-profit organization based in Geneva, Switzerland.

During the last 16 months, researchers focused on two key issues:

1. improving understanding of the materials used to make tires, and

2. studying tire wear and roadway particles generated during normal vehicle use.

On the first issue, they completed preliminary exposure assessments for tire materials selected from a list of commonly-used tire materials on the basis of their physical/chemical properties and known gaps in exposure data. The independent assessments showed sufficient margins of safety for human health based on screening models.

Further analysis of these materials will be carried out individually by the tire companies and their suppliers under the European Union's REACH program for registration and evaluation of chemicals.

On the second issue, researchers collected particles using a specially constructed system mounted on a passenger car and truck driven over French roadways. In addition, laboratory-generated particles were collected inside road simulators in Germany and Sweden that used tires moving on real sections of road pavement and simulated driving courses.

Preliminary analysis showed the roadway particles collected using passenger car and truck vehicles to be a complex mixture of rubber from many tires mixed with road debris including dust, fuel residues, brake lining residue and small stones. Environmental testing showed no acute environmental toxicity from tire wear or roadway particles.

Testing of particles smaller than 10 microns for human health impact will be conducted in the near future. The results and conclusions from the tire wear particle research will be presented at upcoming scientific conferences.

"The ability to collect and analyze small and airborne particles is extremely complex and it is important to undertake further study to fully understand the potential impact," says Howard Klee, director of the WBCSD Tire Industry Project.

Reports will be available on the WBCSD Web site (www.wbcsd.org) at the end of July.

The CEOs approved additional work at a cost of $2.2 million over the next 18 months. Participating companies include Bridgestone Corp., Continental AG, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Hankook Tire Co. Ltd., Kumho Tire Co. Inc., Groupe Michelin, Pirelli Tyre SpA, Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd., Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. and Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd.

Bridgestone, Goodyear and Michelin have served as co-leaders of the group's work to date.

Representatives of the tire industry associations in the U.S., Japan, Korea and Europe also attended the meeting.

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