Agreement Forged to Reduce Copper in Brake Pads

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Jan. 22, 2015—On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, members of the automotive industry and representatives from a number of states 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 five 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 the nation’s streams, rivers and lakes, where these materials can harm fish, amphibians and plants.

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.

“EPA is proud to partner with the automotive industry and the states to reduce the use of copper in motor vehicle brake pads, which means less of this material running off our roads and into our nation’s waterways,” Stan Meiburg, acting deputy administrator for EPA, said in a release. “The environment and public health in our country will benefit from this type of collaboration between the public and private sector.”

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