Washington set to begin phase-out of copper, other toxics from brakes pads

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has been working collaboratively for two years with the brake manufacturing industry, automobile part distributors, environmental groups, and others to develop a certification process for environmentally friendly brake pads and shoes.  Today Ecology announced it has adopted rules to complete this process and move forward to carry out a groundbreaking state law.

In 2010 Washington state became the first place in the world to pass a law -- Chapter 70.285 RCW, known as the Better Brakes Law -- regulating the content of brake friction material because of its impact on the environment.  The Better Brakes Law passed with bipartisan support and is endorsed by the brake manufacturing industry.  The law phases out copper, asbestos, and several heavy metals from brakes sold in Washington.

As brake pads wear down, copper and other metals are deposited on roadways, where they are washed into our streams and rivers.  In urban areas, brake pads account for up to half of the copper entering our waterways.

Copper is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic species.  Young salmon are especially susceptible to the effects of copper.  Removing copper and other toxic metals from brake materials will help clean up Puget Sound and other water bodies around the state.

The law directed Ecology to develop rules to implement the law and develop a certification process for brakes sold in Washington state.  Ecology used an innovative consensus-based rulemaking process, called negotiated rulemaking. The agency worked collaboratively with several stakeholders to develop a certification process and testing procedure to determine if brakes meet the requirements of the law.

Many manufacturers have said they will comply with Washington state’s requirement for all brakes sold in the United States.  Consumers as well as brake retailers and installers will be able to recognize lawful parts by a certification mark on the product packaging.  Brakes will begin to be certified to this new standard beginning in January 2013.


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