Photo via Edmunds
If you had to guess what the biggest source of lead pollution in the US was, wheel weights probably wouldn't have been first off the cuff (unless you're a mechanic or a lead technician). But it's true: every year, 3.5 million pounds of lead fall from cars' wheel weights, putting children who play outdoors at risk of lead poisoning. Now, the nation's top environmental groups are banding together to petition the EPA to ban the lead wheel weights once and for all.According to Lead Free Wheels, a coalition of enviro groups that includes the Sierra Club, the Ecology Center, Environmental Health Watch and others,
"Over 3.5 million pounds of lead from wheel weights fall off cars each year on to the streets where our children play, especially in summer months" said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director for the Ecology Center. "Banning lead wheel weights will greatly protect kids from lead poisoning."
Which sounds like a fine idea. But what are we dealing with?
Lead wheel weights are finger-sized pieces of pure lead attached to vehicle tire rims to help balance wheels and ensure a smooth ride. A typical vehicle will have up to a half pound of lead attached to its tire rims. Lead weights falling off these tire rims are one of the largest ongoing releases of lead into the environment.
And most of that lead falls off in more densely populated areas:
"Cars and trucks grind the wheel weights into a powder that spreads into the neighborhoods along our busy streets, especially the city streets where traffic is heaviest and the stops, starts, and bumps are more common," said Tom Neltner, Co-Chair of the National Toxic Team for the Sierra Club.
Some states already have bans on using lead wheel waits (Washington, Vermont and Maine) and others are currently considering them (California and Iowa). But the Lead-Free Wheels group is going directly to the EPA to try to get them to issue a ban on a federal level--and to stop the greatest source of lead pollution in the US.