Auto Industry Initiative to Reduce Toxic Runoff

by | Jan 23, 2015

The EPA, the automotive industry and states have signed an agreement to reduce the use of copper and other materials in motor vehicle brake pads.

The Copper-Free Brake Initiative calls for cutting copper in brake pads to less than 5 percent by 2021 and 0.5 percent by 2025. This voluntary initiative also calls for cutting the amount of mercury, lead, cadmium, asbestiform fibers and chromium-6 salts in motor vehicle brake pads.

These steps will decrease runoff of these materials from roads into streams, rivers and lakes, where these materials can harm fish, amphibians and plants, the EPA says.

The eight industry groups that signed the initiative are: Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, Brake Manufacturers Council, Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association, Auto Care Association, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Association of Global Automakers, and the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association.

California and Washington have already passed requirements to reduce these materials in brake pads. Prior to their enactment, dust from vehicular braking released an estimated 1.3 million pounds of copper into California’s environment in 2010 and about 250,000 pounds into Washington’s environment in 2011. Estimates for California show copper in urban runoff down as much as 61 percent thanks to changes in brake pad composition.

The initiative includes:

  • Education and outreach to bring about the nationwide reduction in brake pads of copper and the other materials.
  • Testing friction materials and constituents for alternatives.
  • Marking and labeling friction material packaging and product.
  • Providing reporting registrars’ and agents’ contact information to manufacturers, suppliers and other industry entities.
  • Working towards achieving the goals in the Copper-Free Brake Initiative within specified timeframes.

In other voluntary industry initiatives, the EPA last week said participating companies are on track to phase-out perfluorinated chemicals by the end of 2015 and have successfully developed over 150 alternatives.

These chemicals are used in a wide range of industrial applications and consumer goods, including cleaners, textiles, carpet, leather, paper and paints, fire-fighting foams, and wire insulation. These chemicals are toxic, persist in the environment worldwide, and can accumulate in people and animals, the agency says.



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