by Matt Prindiville, NRCM Toxics Project Director
Good afternoon Senator Goodall, Representative Duchesne and members of the Natural Resources Committee. My name is Matt Prindiville, and I’m the Clean Production Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM is Maine’s leading, membership-supported environmental advocacy organization. We represent over 12,000 members and supporters and promote science-based, solutions-oriented policy on a variety of issues including energy, land conservation, river restoration and preventing toxic pollution. I also testify on behalf of the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, the state’s environmental health coalition with over 50 participating organizations and a combined membership of more than 100,000 supporters.
We strongly support LD 986, and thank Senator Goodall for bringing this bill to the attention of the committee. We believe that this bill represents a significant step forward in reducing unnecessary lead pollution to Maine’s drinking water supplies and our environment.
Lead hazards associated with lead wheel weights represent a significant preventable source of lead in the environment.
• An estimated 140 million pounds of lead are used worldwide in the manufacturing of lead wheel weights. One wheel balancing product also contains mercury.
• An average vehicle contains ten wheel weights. Although some effort is made to collect and recycle these weights at the end of a vehicle’s life, most of them are overlooked and often end up in the environment. A disturbingly large number fall off onto the road during vehicle use.
• Lead wheel weights fall off vehicle wheels at the rate of 13% a year, and distribute an estimated 4 million pounds of lead annually nationwide. In Maine, an estimated 20,000 lbs of lead are dispersed annually along Maine’s roadways from lead wheel weights.
Lead wheel weights alongside roadways can contribute to lead levels in roadside dust and runoff that may be toxic to children and wildlife.
• Children and others may be harmed from lead levels in roadside and urban dust and subsequent drinking well-water contamination; and lead wheel weights may also harm workers who install and handle them.
• Pulverized lead dust from failed wheel weights also represents a significant source of lead to Maine’s waterways. Studies have shown that 40% of the runoff in some residential areas and 70% in some commercial areas have lead levels “high enough to kill aquatic life.”
Lead negatively affects every system of the body. It is harmful to individuals of all ages and is especially harmful to children, fetuses, and adults of childbearing age.
• The effects of lead on a child’s cognitive, behavioral, and developmental abilities may necessitate large and avoidable expenditures of public funds for health care and special education. The irreversible damage to children and subsequent expenditures could be avoided if exposure to lead is reduced.
Safer alternatives to lead wheel weights are cost-effective and in widespread commercial use.
• For cars and light truck tires, steel wheel weights and other plastic wheel weights are widely used. For big truck tires, a liquid ethylene glycol mixture can be injected into the wheels, permanently balancing the tires through centripetal force, eliminating lead and improving fuel efficiency.
• Perfect Equipment, Inc., a wheel weight manufacturer that makes lead and steel wheel weights and a supporter of LD 986, says that they can adequately supply the state with steel weights if Maine phases out lead.
• Assuming that you use 2 wheel weights per tire, using steel instead of lead wheel weights would cost an extra 20 to 30 cents per tire, increasing the cost of balancing a tire from $12 to an average of $12.25, an increase of 2 percent to the overall cost.
• With increased economies of scale resulting from more and more states acting to phase out lead weights, this extra initial cost is likely to be nominal or eliminated.
Lead wheel weights are banned in other jurisdictions and are on their way out.
• There has been a national dialogue on phasing out lead wheel weights because of their impact on the environment for some time.
• Europe banned the sale of lead wheel weights in 2005.
• Lead wheel weights are effectively banned in California due a lawsuit settlement filed against lead wheel weight manufacturers because of drinking water contamination. The manufacturers agreed not to sell lead wheel weights in the State of California as part of the settlement.
• Vermont passed a law in 2008 to ban lead wheel weights for use in new vehicles.
• US EPA has convened the National Lead Free Wheel Weights Initiative: “To encourage the transition away from the use of lead for wheel weights, the US EPA has created an opportunity for entities engaged in the manufacture, distribution, sale and use of wheel weights to participate in a voluntary effort to accelerate this transition.”
• Nearly every major car manufacturer uses safer alternatives to lead wheel weights.
• Through Governor Baldacci’s 2006 Executive Order on Safer Chemicals, safer alternatives to lead wheel weights are currently in use by State of Maine and University of Maine fleets.
Maine lawmakers now have an opportunity to protect our families, wildlife and the environment, by phasing out lead wheel weights in favor of safer alternatives. We urge you to support LD 986.
Thank you for your consideration. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.