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Lead Wheel Weights Could Sully Drinking Water

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Aired 4/19/09

The tires on your car are likely balanced with toxic lead weights. But an environmental group plans legal action to stop the sale of lead-based wheel weights in California. KPBS Reporter Ed Joyce tells us the lead may threaten our drinking water.

The Center for Environmental Health wants Chrysler and several makers of lead wheel weights to use safer alternatives. The Center's Caroline Cox says about half-a-million pounds of the weights fall off cars in California each year.

Cox: They tend to get smashed up once they get in the roadway. And then either can be blown away in the dust or washed away by water, even getting into drinking water sources.

She says many automakers have moved to less toxic alternatives such as steel and zinc to balance wheels.  Lead wheel weights have been banned in Europe. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that at least 3 percent of wheel weights fall off cars and trucks every year. The U.S.G.S. also says about 65,000 tons of the lead weights are in use on the nation's highways.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

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