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U.S. EPA honors Contra Costa County for pledging to remove nearly 2,000 pounds of lead from its vehicle fleet

Release Date: 04/17/2009
Contact Information: Mary Simms, 415-760-5419,

Contra Costa County sets an example of responsible environmental stewardship

(San Francisco, Calif. -- 4/17/2009) In an effort to highlight and celebrate Earth Day and as part of the National Partnership for Environmental Priorities program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today honors Contra Costa County for its commitment to voluntarily replace all lead wheel weights from thousands of tires, resulting in a reduction of more than 2,000 pounds of lead from the environment by 2012.

Contra Costa is the first county fleet in California to enroll in this program.

“Contra Costa County will prevent thousands of pounds of hazardous lead from entering our environment,” said Tom Huetteman, the EPA’s Waste Division associate director for the Pacific Southwest region. “The county’s environmental leadership serves as a model both for public and private fleets to get the lead out.”

It’s not only large public fleets that can make a difference. Every Bay Area motorist can easily have an impact by requesting non-lead wheel weights when getting their tires balanced.

“As Earth Day 2009 rapidly approaches, we want to let everyone know that this is one small action that consumers can also take to protect the environment,” added Huetteman.

Within one year, the Contra Costa County’s vehicle maintenance facility in Martinez performs nearly 1,800 tire balancing services. By replacing lead weights with coated steel weights, the county will effectively reduce the amount of lead by 2,000 pounds by 2012. This Contra Costa county project serves as a model for other county or municipal fleets.

The EPA’s lead-free wheel weight initiative engages partners in the manufacture, distribution, sale and use of wheel weights to participate in a voluntary effort to accelerate the transition to steel weights. Lead can enter the environment and create potential human exposures by weights falling off tires and being washed into storm sewers or waterways.

Quick Facts:

Wheel weights are clipped to the rims of every automobile wheel in the United States in order to balance tires.

Sale of lead weights will be phased out in California by the end of 2009 under a court settlement between Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health and Chrysler along with the three largest makers of lead wheel weights for the U.S. market: Plombco Inc. of Canada, Perfect Equipment Inc. and Hennessey Industries.

There are 200 million autos and light trucks on the nation's roadways, with 16 million new autos produced annually in the United States.

An average of 4.5 ounces of lead are clipped to the wheel rims of every automobile in the United States.

Approximately 50 million pounds of lead are used annually to produce tire weights worldwide in autos and light trucks.

It is estimated that 1.6 million pounds of lead are lost annually in the United States when wheel weights fall off during normal driving conditions (e.g., hitting a pot hole).

Local service stations may have steel weights available, and consumers can request them in lieu of lead weights.

The National Partnership for Environmental Priorities encourages public and private organizations to form partnerships with the EPA to reduce the use or release of toxic. Lead is a chemical of concern for the EPA because it bio-accumulates in the food chain, damages ecosystems and can cause brain damage in humans, especially children.

The EPA’s goal is to partner with industries, municipalities and federal facilities to reduce the use or release of 4 million pounds of priority chemicals by 2011. The EPA also encourages all consumers to ask their tire vendors to provide lead-free wheel weights.

The EPA is also launching a web video highlighting our “get the lead out” message geared towards the general public. There are 200 million vehicles on the nation’s roadways and with about 5 ounces of lead per vehicle, over one million pounds of lead fall off each year and pollute our environment. It only takes a week for a wheel weight falling off to corrode and contaminate our environment. Besides large fleets signing up such as Contra Costa or the U.S. Postal Service, every car owner can do something to get the lead out. When tires are rotated or balanced, consumers should ask their mechanics to replace the old lead ones with new steel ones.

The link to the video shown above:

For more information on the EPA’s National Partnership for Environmental Priorities Program, please visit:

For more information about USPS, please visit: