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Lead wheel weights

Ecology now has flyers to help you let people know about
Washington's law banning lead wheel weights!
What are wheel weights? Why are some made of lead?
Wheel weights are typically fastened to wheel rims to help ensure a smooth ride and proper tire wear. Because of its density, low cost, and malleability, lead has been used in wheel weights worldwide since the 1930s to balance vehicle tires. Most new cars now come with coated steel or zinc wheel weights, which have passed the same safety and use tests as lead weights. However, most tires get lead wheel weights when they are repaired or replaced.

Why are lead wheel weights a problem?
Ecology’s research indicates that about 40 metric tons of lead wheel weights fall off vehicles every year in Washington. People are exposed to lead fragments and dust when lead wheel weights fall from motor vehicles onto Washington roadways and are then crushed and worn down by traffic. Lead wheel weights on and alongside roadways can contribute to soil, surface, and groundwater contamination and pose hazards to downstream aquatic life.

What does the law do?
Starting January 1st, 2011, the law (RCW 70.270) bans the use of lead wheel weights and requires that a person who replaces or balances motor vehicle tires in Washington must use environmentally preferred wheel weights. Stockpiling lead weights for use after January 1st, 2011 is not permitted. The law only pertains to motor vehicles with a wheel diameter of less than 19.5 inches or a gross vehicle weight of 14,000 lbs. While lead wheel weights will remain legal for those larger tires, there are alternatives available for larger tires and Ecology encourages their use.

Most auto manufacturers use non-lead wheel weights, and other states, cities, and groups have also required the use of non-lead wheel weights. The EPA has announced that it will pursue a national ban on the manufacture and distribution of lead tire weights. Ecology will look at the effect of the EPA action on our state law once the EPA rule is finished.

What do I need to use instead of lead wheel weights?
An environmentally preferred wheel weight is a wheel weight that does not include more than 0.5 percent by weight of lead or any other chemical on Ecology’s PBT list. This means that wheel weights must not contain substances like cadmium or mercury.

Coated steel, composite, and zinc weights are all legal alternatives to lead as long as they do not contain any of the substances on this list. Ask your supplier for assurance that the weights you buy are legal for use in Washington.

What do I do with lead wheel weights?
Lead wheel weights that you remove from vehicles must be recycled and should be handled as hazardous waste. If you are unsure where to recycle lead wheel weights, visit the Hazardous Waste Services Directory or 1-800-RECYCLE websites to find a location near you.