WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to launch a voluntary program to get car makers and auto parts suppliers to reduce their use of lead wheel weights, which can become pollutants.
The initiative, to be announced Friday in Detroit with representatives of Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, will include a broad number of auto manufacturers, retailers, tiremakers and tire weight manufacturers.
EPA said they will recognize companies and government agencies pledging to significantly reduce the use of lead wheel weights, which are used to balance tires, by the end of 2011.
Chrysler LLC and three auto parts suppliers agreed to end their use of the weights in a settlement reached last week with a California environmental group. Environmentalists had said the weights were falling off cars and trucks and polluting the state's drinking water.
Under the settlement, Chrysler, Perfect Equipment Inc., Hennessy Industries Inc. and Plombco Inc. will be required to phase out lead wheel weights in the state by the end of 2009.
The weights are clipped to the wheels of nearly all 200 million cars and trucks on U.S. roadways. A 2006 U.S. Geological Survey report estimated that about 2,000 tons of lead from wheel weights ended up on the nation's roads in one year.
BFS Retail & Commercial Operations LLC, which operates Firestone Complete Auto Care, Tires Plus, ExpertTire and Wheel Works service centers, moved to make steel wheel balance weights available to customers this year because the weights are nontoxic.
In addition to Chrysler, automakers participating in the voluntary program include General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and 12 members of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, including Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., and Nissan Motor Co.
Other participants include tiremakers Bridgestone/Firestone and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., and government agencies such as EPA, the Defense Department and the U.S. Postal Service. Retailers include Costco Wholesale Corp., Firestone Complete Auto Care, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Sam's Club Tire and Battery Centers.