Around the Industry: Getting the Lead Out

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The adverse health effects of lead paint and leaded gasoline are well known. Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over a period of months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems.

The automotive repair industry was glad to see lead removed from gasoline during the 1970s. Unleaded gasoline allowed cars to be equipped with catalytic converters, resulting in tremendous, measurable reductions of airborne pollutants. In fact, the entire auto industry works with the US EPA to remove harmful pollutants from anything associated with automobiles and driving.

More recently, the auto industry, along with the US EPA and health officials are realizing the harmful effects of lead now found to be contaminating our air, soil and water supply.

A 2006 US Geological Survey study found approximately 130 million pounds of lead wheel (balance) weights to be on US vehicles. An estimated 3 percent of wheel weights fall off each year. When lost on roadways, lead can contaminate sources of drinking water and cause human developmental harm.

As a result, states and cities across the US have legislated against the use of lead wheel weights for vehicle use. Other states and municipalities are drafting similar legislation. The US EPA, Canada and Europe are all considering a ban on the manufacture and distribution of lead wheel weights.

In the meantime, the automotive repair industry, parts suppliers and even new car manufacturers have taken actions to support the move away from lead wheel weights. Major auto repair retailers and independent shops alike have already stopped ordering lead weights and are phasing in replacements.

Zinc weights are being widely used in Europe, and US automakers are trending toward steel alternatives. Wheel weight manufacturers across North America have been developing and offering non-lead products for nearly a decade.

The Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) supports all industry efforts and development of automotive repair industry standards that promote health, safety and well being of all persons. MAP supports advanced technologies that enhance the lives of motorists and help benefit the environment.

Other industry efforts and legislation are in place to address growing concerns of groundwater contamination from copper used in automotive brake pads. MAP will continue its work within the automotive industry to help educate repair shops and consumers about these environmental trends and how they might affect motorists’ decisions and choices for car repairs.

For more information about the Motorist Assurance Program, visit MAP at: www.motorist.org

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