Washington phasing out copper and toxics from brake pads

The Washington Department of Ecology is preparing to enact a new certification process for environmentally friendly brake pads and shoes.

The law, which state officials said is one of the first of its kind, was developed over the past two years in collaboration with the brake manufacturing industry, automobile part distributors, environmental groups and others.

Known as the Better Brakes Law (Chapter 70.285 RCW), the new regulation will phase out copper, asbestos and several heavy medals from brakes sold in Washington state.

When brake pads, which have traditionally been made with these materials, wear down, copper and other metals are deposited on roadways and eventually washed into rivers and streams. In urban areas of the state, brake pads account for nearly half of the copper that enters waterways, according to the ecology department.

Copper is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic species. Young salmon are especially susceptible to the effects of copper.

Ecology officials hope the removal of these toxic materials from brake materials will help clean up Puget Sound and other water bodies around the state.

The law, which passed in 2010, directed the state to develop implementation rules and a certification process for brakes retailers. Officials said they used a consensus-based rulemaking process, called negotiated rulemaking, and worked collaboratively with several stakeholders to develop a certification process and testing procedure to determine if brakes meet the requirements of the law.

According to the ecology department, many manufacturers have said they will comply with Washington state’s requirement for all brakes sold in the U. S.. 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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