Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How to find low-copper brake pads

Fish can start breathing a little easier today as automotive industry manufacturers, states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed an agreement to reduce copper in brake pads modeled on Washington's 2010 Better Brakes Law.

Copper is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic species. It interferes with their sense of smell, making them more vulnerable to predators or unable to return to their spawning streams. Young salmon are especially susceptible to the effects of copper.

Vehicle brakes are a major source of copper in the environment, especially in urban areas. An estimated 250,000 pounds of copper enters Washington's waters each year from brake pads, 130,000 pounds of that going into Puget Sound.

Under the Better Brakes Law, manufacturers will reduce copper levels below 5 percent by 2021 and cut copper below 0.5 percent by 2025. Manufacturers report that they expect to beat those dates, without compromising on performance or quality. Results Washington is tracking our progress toward reducing copper in brake pads. 

John Stark, director of the Washington Stormwater Center, said cutting that source of copper will make a difference for salmon.

“Reducing copper levels won’t singlehandedly fix the challenges facing salmon in Puget Sound, but it will remove one of the barriers to their recovery,” Stark said.

But why wait until 2025? For many vehicles, brake pads are already available that meet either the 5 percent or 0.5 percent standard.

If you're buying brake pads or shoes for your car or truck, look at the packaging. Newly manufactured brakes will have a leaf illustration indicating which standard they meet - the more leafs filled in, the more environmentally friendly the brakes are:

In the pictures above, the "A" leaf meets standards for toxic chemicals such as asbestos, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury. The "B" leaf meets those standards and contains less than 5-percent copper by weight. The "N" leaf meets the toxics standards and contains less than 0.5-percent copper by weight.

1 comment:

NANOOS PNW said...

Thank you for this great, informative post. The introduction of metals and other contaminants from our roads is a huge issue, but I had no idea that copper from break pads could make such a large impact!