Cars, Lead Pollution, and Drinking Water

When it’s time to get your car’s alignment balanced, you probably don’t think about lead in your drinking water. But when the shop balances your wheels, they may be using lead-based wheel weights to do the job. Amazingly, studies have shown that these leaded wheel weights often fall off of cars into roadways, where they erode and release millions of pounds of lead into the environment, ultimately polluting our drinking water with this highly toxic chemical.

CEH has been working to end the use of lead-based wheel weights, and we’ve been getting results. In 2007 we initiated our work towards alternatives to lead, and as a direct result of our work, this month California adopted a statewide ban on the sale and installation of leaded wheel weights.

CEH is also networking with other groups across the country fighting to end the use of leaded wheel weights. Earlier this year, CEH and other groups petitioned EPA for a federal ban on leaded wheel weights, and in August the agency agreed to develop new rules to ban lead-based weights. We also have closely followed and supported a group of Iowa Middle Schoolers, Team Dead Weight, who are working to ban the use of leaded weights in their state. For their work, Team Dead Weight recently won the Grand Prize in a national Discovery-channel sponsored science contest.

By banning lead in wheel weights, California is encouraging other states to follow suit, and ultimately prompting federal action that will end the sale of lead-based wheel weights nationwide (The European Union has already banned leaded weights). CEH will continue our work and will be posting updates on this national issue.