SACRAMENTO (Oct. 20, 2009)—Lead wheel weights now are banned in California, thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Oct. 11.
The bill, which was sponsored by the Center for Environmental Health and Clean Water Action, forbids the manufacture, sale and use of wheel weights containing more than 0.1 percent lead within California as of Jan. 1, 2010.
It provides for injunctive relief and civil or administrative penalties of up to $2,000 per day against those who violate the ban. All fines collected for violations of the ban will go into the Hazardous Waste Control account within California's Department of Toxic Substances Control.
If any alternative used as a substitute to lead in wheel weights is discovered to be a “chemical of concern” under California law, the department would be required to evaluate the substance to determine how best to limit public exposure and reduce the hazard level, the bill states.
This bill represents the ultimate success of CEH and CWA in their five-year effort to get lead weights outlawed in California. There already was a de facto ban on lead weights in the state. Chrysler L.L.C.—the last major auto maker to use lead weights as original equipment on their vehicles—made a formal agreement with the state to stop distributing lead weights in California by the end of 2009.
The three major manufacturers of wheel weights in the U.S.—Plombco Inc., Perfect Equipment Inc. and Hennessy Industries Inc.—also agreed to stop distributing lead weights in California by the end of 2009. Plombco was the first to stop, on Dec. 31, 2008.
Washington state passed a bill earlier this year to ban lead wheel weights within its borders as of Jan. 1, 2011. Lead weights have been illegal in the European Union since 2005. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not banned the use of lead wheel weights, but in August 2008 it launched its “National Lead Free Wheel Weight Initiative,” a voluntary effort endorsed by major tire makers, auto makers, wheel weight manufacturers and government agencies.