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Lead wheel weights banned in Maine, Vermont and Washington

May 15, 2009Lead wheel weights used to balance tires and prevent shimmying at high speeds are soon be a thing of the past with enactment of laws in Maine, Vermont and Washington and pending legislation in California.

In Washington, it will be illegal for those who sell new tires or rotate existing tires to install wheel weights containing lead beginning January 1, 2011. The law also requires the use of “environmentally preferable” wheel weights, which, according to news reports, will most likely be made of zinc or a steel alloy. Washington’s bill, HB1033, was signed into law on April 28, 2009.

Beginning January 1, 2011, Maine’s law prohibits the use of lead or mercury-containing wheel weights when a tire is replaced or rotated, and it bans the sale and distribution of lead or mercury-containing wheel weights. In 2012, a person cannot sell a new car in Maine if the wheel weights contain lead or mercury. Maine’s law, Public Law 125, was signed this week, May 12, 2009.

Vermont’s legislature passed a law, Act 193, last year that, among other lead-containing product bans, prohibits the use of lead wheel weights in state vehicles beginning January 1, 2010 and bans them from new motor vehicles starting September 1, 2011.

According to an article in the Spokesman Review, link pasted below, the Washington Department of Ecology estimates that about 5% of all lead wheel weights fall out while driving, leaving as much as 20 tons of lead on the side of the road or in parking lots. Lead is toxic and has been linked to brain damage and other developmental and behavioral problems, especially in children. Some tire dealers are already phasing out lead wheel weights, according to the article.

A lawsuit settlement with the three largest wheel weight manufactures will stop the distribution of lead wheel weights in California by the end of 2009, according to the Spokesman Review article. California State Senator Fran Pavley is sponsoring legislation, SB757, that would codify the settlement by prohibiting the manufacture, sale, or installation of lead wheel weights in the state.

In Maryland this year, NCEL President Delegate James Hubbard authored legislation, HB763, with Delegate Barbara Frush and Delegate Dan Morhaim that would have banned installation of lead weights for state vehicles by January 2011, for used vehicles by January 1, 2012, and for new vehicles by January 1, 2013. The bill did not pass.

In Iowa, State Senator Joe Bolkcom introduced a bill, SF220, that would have prohibited, after December 31, 2010, the sale of a motor vehicle equipped with lead wheel weights. During the servicing, repair, or maintenance of a motor vehicle, the bill would have prohibited the installation of lead wheel weights and required such wheel weights to be replaced with wheel weights composed of materials other than lead. The bill did not pass.

All of the state bills/laws were sponsored and/or co-sponsored by National Caucus of Environmental Legislators' participants. More information about this issue can be found by visiting the following links:

-Lead Free Wheels (A project of the Ecology Center):

-Compilation of Documents from Lead Free Wheels:

-California SB 757 Analysis:

Washington Senate OKs ban on lead tire weights - Installers could face fines by 2011
From the Spokesman-Review, April 15, 2009:

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