Detroit, Michigan – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the National Lead Free Wheel Weight Initiative (NFLWWI), a voluntary program to encourage the auto industry to discontinue the use of lead wheel weights in favour of more environmentally-friendly alternatives. The EPA is asking companies to reduce their use of lead weights by December 31, 2011.

Currently, there are no regulatory controls governing the use of lead wheel weights, which can come loose and fall off, ending up in waterways or municipal landfills.

Under the NLFWWI, participating companies will identify the volume of lead to be eliminated; reduce the use of lead for wheel weights by the 2011 deadline; take responsibility for providing information, education and outreach to the public regarding the benefits of lead-free weights; properly collect and recycle used weights in the current inventory or acquired through normal business operation; and publicly endorse the NFLWWI and encourage the use of lead-free wheel weights by others.

According to the EPA, an average of 4.5 ounces (127.5 grams) of lead is clipped to the wheel rims of each automobile in the U.S.; approximately 50 million lbs (22.6 million kg) of lead is used annually to produce tire weights worldwide. While 75 per cent of the lead in weights is recycled by secondary lead smelters, the remaining 25 per cent, or 12.5 million lbs (5.6 million kg), is uncontrolled or unmanaged in the environment annually.

Charter members with the initiative include General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Bridgestone Firestone North America, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Costco Wholesale, Wal-Mart Tire and Lube Express, 3M Automotive Division, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Postal Service.

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