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Lead Wheel Weights

Lead Wheel Weights Prohibition

On September 17, 2010 a new law was passed which established the prohibition of both the sale and use of wheel weights containing lead in New York State.

Lead wheel weights

Provisions of the Law

  • As of April 1, 2011 any person replacing or balancing a tire on a motor vehicle (that is required to be registered under article fourteen of title four of the vehicle and traffic law), shall not use a wheel weight or other product for balancing motor vehicle wheels if the weight or other balancing product contains more than 0.1 percent lead by weight.
  • After April 1, 2011 no person shall sell, offer to sell or distribute weights or other products used for balancing tires that contain more than 0.1 percent of lead by weight.
  • Additionally, after April 1, 2012 a person may not sell a new motor vehicle that is equipped with a weight or other wheel balancing product that contains more than 0.1 percent lead by weight.

Use of Wheel Weights

Wheel weights are clipped to the rims of automobile wheels in the United States to balance tires during rotation. Hitting curbs and potholes, rapid accelerations and decelerations, sharp turning, and other driving conditions where a vehicle can rapidly change momentum can cause wheel weights to loosen and fall off. These lost wheel weights are gradually abraded into lead dust which can contaminate surrounding soils and adjacent waterways. In urban and other developed areas, these "lost" wheel weights are collected during street cleaning and sent for landfill disposal. Wheel weights can also enter the waste stream as auto shredder fluff if vehicles are improperly processed at end-of-life.

wheel weights attached to a wheel to balance the tire

This is a problem since these weights have historically had high lead content and lead is designated as one of 31 Priority Chemicals targeted to be reduced by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An average of 4.5 ounces of lead is clipped to the wheel rims of every automobile in the United States. According to a 2003 United States Geological Survey (USGS) national study, approximately 2,000 tons of lead wheel weights were lost from vehicles into the environment. The USGS data also suggests that approximately 75% of the lead in wheel weights is recycled, with the remaining being unaccounted for (e.g used in sports and hobbies, exported on vehicles, lost on roadways, disposed).

To mitigate the potential harmful effects of lead in the environment, public health, and drinking water supplies, a handful of states have enacted legislation to prohibit the use of lead wheel weights. Also, EPA has established a National Lead Free Wheel Weight Initiative (Initiative), as a volunteer program. EPA's Initiative was developed as a partnership with federal and state agencies, as well as wheel weight and tire manufacturers, retailers, and automotive trade associations. This Initiative looks to reduce the use of lead in wheel weights by encouraging the manufacturing of wheel weights with other metal alternatives, such as steel, in order to serve the same purpose. A multitude of companies and agencies have already joined this Initiative - Bridgestone-Firestone Retail and Commercial Operations, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Costco Wholesale, Wal-Mart Tire, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Postal Service, and automobile manufacturers, such as Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and Chrysler. This is in addition to many other non-government organizations that have responded to the EPA's initiative.

  • More information on the initiative can be found at: (www.epa.gov/wastes/hazard/wastemin/minimize/factshts/leadfree.htm)
  • New York State's Lead Wheel Weight Law (see links below)
  • A list of lead-free wheel weight distributors can be found at: - www.leadfreewheels.org/sources.shtml
  • A report - "Stocks and Flows of Lead Based Wheel Weights in the United States", prepared by USGS, 2006 can be found on the USGS website - pubs.er.usgs.gov/

Disclaimer - This vendor list is by no means complete or comprehensive. Vendors listed here are not endorsed by NYSDEC. Their environmental compliance has not been authenticated. You can find more listings by searching the web. Please contact the vendor to find out all pertinent information including costs.


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