Picture taken by Kim Clark, 2009

Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction

Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction > Laws & Rules > Better Brakes Law

Better Brakes Law

Picture of car brakes.
Vehicle Brakes

In 2010 Washington State passed a law reducing the use of toxic material in automotive brake pads and shoes. This law, similar to a recent California law, restricts the use of several heavy metals and asbestos, and provides for a phase out of copper.

As brake pads wear down, copper and other metals are deposited on roadways, where they are washed into our streams and rivers. In urban areas, brake pads account for up to half of the copper entering our waterways. Copper is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic species. Young salmon are especially susceptible to the effects of copper. Removing copper and other toxic metals from brake materials will help to clean up Puget Sound and other water bodies around the state.

Major provisions of the Better Brakes Law

  • Brake pads and shoes manufactured after January 1, 2015, must not contain asbestos, hexavalent chromium, mercury, cadmium, or lead. Auto shops and other distributors of brakes will be able to sell any existing inventory for ten years.
  • Brake pads manufactured after January 1, 2021, must not contain more than five percent copper by weight.
  • Beginning in 2015, Ecology will review relevant information and consult with a committee of experts to determine if alternative brake friction materials, containing less than 0.5 percent copper, are available.
  • Eight years after Ecology determines that alternative brake friction materials are available, brake pads containing more than 0.5 percent copper may not be sold in the state.
  • Brake manufacturers will use accredited laboratories and certify to Ecology that their brake pads and shoes comply with the law and will mark proof of certification on all pads and packaging offered for sale in Washington.
  • Ecology will track data provided by manufacturers to ensure that concentrations of nickel, zinc, and antimony in automobile brake pads do not increase by more than 50 percent.

Better Brakes Rule

The Better Brakes Law directs Ecology to develop rules to implement the law.  On October 19, 2012, Ecology adopted the Better Brake Rule, Chapter 173-901 WAC.  The rule was developed using a consensus based rulemaking process called negotiated rulemaking.  Ecology sought consensus with brake manufacturers, environmental groups, brake retailers/distributors, and other interested parties to develop the Better Brakes Rule.  The rule addresses:

  • Criteria that manufacturers of brake friction material must follow to certify compliance using third party accredited laboratories.
  • Requirements relating to product and packaging markings.
  • Requirements for data submitted to Ecology regarding the concentration of copper and other metals in brake pads sold or offered for sale in Washington.
  • A process by which manufacturers may apply for an exemption.
  • Other issues necessary to implement RCW 70.285.
For more information

Ian Wesley, Better Brakes Rule coordinator: iwes461@ecy.wa.gov or call: 360-407-6747.
For comments on our website, please e-mail us.