SEATTLE - When a driver hits the brakes, friction releases copper shavings that fall onto the road and are eventually washed into rivers, where environmentalists say the metal could pose a hazard to marine life - especially salmon.
Washington state responded to the problem last month by becoming the first state in the nation to pass a law to phase out the use of copper in brake pads. The move could eventually make copperfree pads the U.S. industry standard.
“You think about all of this traffic, every day on the road, braking and going,” said Curt Hart, spokesman for Washington Department of Ecology. “All of it in total starts to really make a difference.”
The new law bans brake pads containing more than 5 percent copper starting in 2021. The allowable amount could drop almost to zero in 2023 if manufacturers show it is possible.
California lawmakers have considered similar legislation, and industry officials expect other states to follow Washington’s lead.
The auto industry did not oppose the legislation.
“It was a balanced approach, balancing the needs of our consumers and environmental concerns,” said Curt Augustine, policy director for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group of 11 manufacturers, including Ford, Chrysler and Toyota.