The use of lead has almost been eliminated in consumer products. Except on our wheels.The Automotive Maintenance & Repair Association (AMRA) have lent their voices in calling for an end to lead tire weights. Lead weights are used to balance the tires and wheels on passenger vehicles. Normal manufacturing imperfections mean that both tires and wheels are not able to roll smoothly at high speeds. The weights are placed on the rims and offset the imperfections making our rides smooth. However, the lead can be harmful to the environment and to children.
AutoMD.com and AMRA are encouraging tire shops and related companies to move to alternative materials for the weights such as zinc coated steel. Tracey Virtue, Vice President of AutoMD.com. says “Those little finger-sized weights that get attached to the side of the rim of your wheel just happen to be releasing large amounts of lead into our environment. As the weights are tossed free of a car’s wheel, they gradually decompose — and may wind up in our water supply, or our landfills. At AutoMD.com, we believe that lead wheel weights should be replaced with weights made from alternative materials.” The photo at the top of this story was not staged. The keys are added for scale. It was taken about 100 yards from my home the day I wrote this story.
Lead is toxic and in tiny amounts causes serious harm to children if ingested. The amount of lead in blood considered hazardous is just 10 μg/dL, an incredibly tiny amount.The most common form of environmental lead was historically from two sources. Lead paint, which was banned in 1978, and tetraethyl lead in gasoline which began to be phased out in 1976 and was no longer used in most parts the U.S. after 1986. Washington State decided to continue to poising its citizens for five additional years. “Since the virtual disappearance of leaded gas in the United States,” wrote Car Talk’s Jamie Lincoln Kitman in “The Secret History of Lead” for The Nation, “the mean blood-lead level of the American population has declined more than 75 percent.” Toxipedia said that “The addition of lead to gasoline is one of the greatest public health failures of the 20th century.”
According to the EPA, approximately 50 million pounds of lead is used annually to produce tire weights. The next time you buy tires, or have your balanced, ask for steel, or non-lead weights.