April 13, 2010

Washington State Banning Copper Brake Pads

The state of Washington has passed a law designed to phase out the use of copper in automotive brake pads, which experts say create hazardous material that can eventually harm marine life.

Under the legislation, which was passed in March, all brake pads must contain less than 5-percent copper content starting in 2021 and, if proven feasible, could eliminate copper from the pads altogether two years after that.

California is also considering similar legislation, and according to Associated Press writer Phuong Le, "The move could eventually make copper-free pads the industry standard in the U.S."

When a driver brakes, pads that contain copper can release shavings that can be washed into bodies of water and cause pollution as a result. Washington state ecology officials estimate that as many as 318,000 pounds of copper are washed into Puget Sound annually, with 33-percent of that coming from cars and trucks. According to experts, copper runoff can harm a salmon's sense of smell and is toxic to plankton, which can have a negative effect on aquatic life.

Curt Augustine, the policy director for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a public policy group of 11 manufacturers, including Ford, Chrysler and Toyota, called it a "balanced approach, balancing the needs of our consumers and environmental concerns."

One possibility is that copper brake pads will be phased out altogether and replaced by ceramic brake pads, which are quiet, longer lasting, and create less brake dust than other forms of pads. In addition, it is believed that they can deal with heat better. However, ceramic brake pads are far more expensive than copper-based ones, and the performance benefits may not be worth the monetary cost for many drivers, regardless of the possible environmental benefits.


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