Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin rulemaking that will ban lead wheel balancing weights. The decision reverses a 2005 decision by the agency, following a petition from environmental and public health organizations to ban the weights.

Lead in wheel weights represents one of the largest unregulated uses of lead in consumer products today, according to the Ecology Center, one of the groups named in the petition. Jeff Gearhart, research director for the Center, said that 1.6 million pounds of lead from wheel weights falls off vehicles every year. “Banning lead wheel weights will greatly protect kids from lead poisoning,” he said.

“Cars and trucks grind the wheel weights into a powder that spread into the neighbourhoods 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 Sierra Club’s National Toxic Team. “EPA’s action makes it clear that the agency recognizes that once released into our neighbourhoods, lead is tough to clean up. Pollution prevention is the best way to protect our health and our environment.”

The national action follows several enacted by individual states. Washington passed a ban in 2009, which will go into effect in 2011; Maine based a ban that will go into effect in 2010. California and Iowa are currently considering similar bans, while Vermont has banned the weights on all state-owned vehicles by 2010, and for all new vehicles by 2011.

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