JANUARY 2009

Postal Service pledges to remove 8,000 pounds of lead

As part of the National Partnership for Environmental Priorities program, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored the Pacific Area of the United States Postal Service (USPS) for its commitment to voluntarily replace all lead wheel weights for approximately 31,000 fleet delivery vehicles – removing more than 8,000 pounds of lead from its workplace operations and potential deposition into the environment.

The USPS’s 34 vehicle maintenance facilities in California and Hawaii will perform about 70,000 tire balancing services annually, eliminating nearly 8,000 pounds of lead in the workplace and approximately 500 pounds in the environment from wheel weights that fall off onto roadways.

“The USPS will not only remove thousands of pounds of hazardous lead from our environment, but recently also helped the EPA launch its National Lead Free Wheel Weight Initiative to encourage the transition away from using lead for wheel weights,” said Jeff Scott, the EPA’s Waste Division director for the Pacific Southwest region.

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.

Some facts about wheel weights follows:

  • Wheel weights are clipped to the rims of every automobile wheel in the United States in order to balance tires.
  • Lead weights will be phased out in California by the end of 2009 under a court settlement between Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health against Chrysler and the three largest makers of lead wheel weights for the United States market – Plombco, Inc. of Canada, Perfect Equipment, Inc. and Hennessey Industries.
  • An average of 4.5 ounces of lead is clipped to the wheel rims of every automobile in the United States.
  • Approximately 50 million pounds of lead is used annually to produce tire weights worldwide in autos and light trucks.
  • It is estimated that 1.6 million pounds are lost in the United States when wheel weights fall off during normal driving conditions.
  • It is estimated that half a million pounds of lead each year is released into the environment in California from wheel weights falling off vehicles.
  • Local service stations may have steel weights available, and consumers can request them in lieu of lead weights.