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Washington State Tire Retailer to Phase-Out Lead Wheel Weights

First tire dealer on West Coast to offer environmentally friendly wheel balancing

Contact: Don Orange, Main Street Tire & Auto, 3800 Main St., Vancouver, WA, 360-690-8277
Jeff Gearhart, Campaign Director, Ecology Center, Michigan, 734-663-2400 x117

Main St. Tire
Main St. Tire and Auto

(April 19, 2005) Main Street Tire & Auto of Vancouver, Washington, just became a little greener. Always on the lookout for ways to make their products and services more environmentally friendly, Main Street Tire has announced that they have started to phase-out the use of lead weights for wheel balancing at their retail tire store.

Main Street Tire has joined forces with the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Ecology Center to offer lead-free wheel balancing on both new tire purchases and repairs at no additional cost to the public.

The nonprofit Ecology Center's "Lead-Free Wheels" program, partially funded with a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, offers lead-free wheel weights at a discount to a growing number of private tire retailers and public fleet operators nationwide. In the Midwest, the University of Michigan; the Cities of Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Madison Heights and Romulus in Michigan; the State of Minnesota; and a number of independent auto repair shops have phased-out lead wheel weight use. Main St. Tire
Main St. Tire and Auto

"We commend the leadership and responsibility of tire dealers like Main Street Tire," said Jeff Gearhart, Campaign Director of the Ecology Center. "Main Street Tire is the first tire retailer on the West Coast to begin phasing out the use of lead wheel weights. We expect many other tire retailers, cities, and states will follow their lead."

The replacement wheel weights - made from zinc - are being supplied to program participants by the Ecology Center at the same cost as the lead weights currently used. Traditionally, one to two lead weights weighing 2-3 ounces each have been attached to each tire rim to balance the wheel for a smoother ride and longer tread wear.

Lead-free wheel weights are being introduced to help protect consumers and the environment from toxic lead exposure. Recent studies have documented that on average 13% of wheel weights fall off of vehicles during driving. One study estimates that 3.3 million pounds of lead per year is deposited on urban roads in the United States.

Lead is a well-known, highly toxic substance, and is especially dangerous to children even in very small amounts. Lead wheel weights are actually very soft and after they fall off a vehicle they are rapidly abraded by traffic into smaller pieces, scattered into the wind as dust, washed into storm sewers and waterways, and picked up by shoes, animal paws, and bicycle tires.

The use of lead free wheel weights by Main Street Tire will amount to a reduction of the use of 145 pounds of lead each year, and prevent the release of nearly 20 pounds of lead into the environment in each year.

"The transition to lead-free wheel balancing has been very easy," said Main Street Tire & Auto owner Don Orange. "We're finding that the new weights work as good or better then the lead weights we previously used. We hope the automakers will move to install lead-free weights on all new vehicles."

"This is a great example of easy, cost-effective action that can have great environmental benefits," said Gearhart.

The lead-free weights for the program meet all Original Equipment Manufacturer specifications and are being purchased from the top wheel weight manufacturers, including Perfect Equipment Corporation (Tennessee), and Plombco (Montreal).

"Lead-Free Wheels" program organizers are also calling on all auto manufacturers and tire retailers to commit to phasing out the use of lead wheel weights in the U.S. by July 2006.

The Ecology Center is a regional environmental organization working to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles. For more information on the Ecology Center and the issue of lead-free wheel weights, visit http://www.leadfreewheels.org.

Main Street Tire & Auto, located at 3800 Main Street, Vancouver, Washington, is a full maintenance auto repair facility that also sells new tires.

Lead Free Wheels is a project of the Ecology Center, a nonprofit organization.