The Government of Canada has announced new regulations that prohibit the import and manufacture of wheel weights containing more than 0.1% by weight of lead in Canada.

Lead is on the Government of Canada’s toxic substances list. Exposure to even small amounts of lead can be hazardous to human health (particularly the kidneys and cardiovascular system), as well as the health of fish and wildlife. According to the Government’s website, the use of lead in wheel weights and products including fishing gear and ammunition is thought to be the main exposure pathway for fish and wildlife.

Despite its toxicity, lead remains the most common material used when manufacturing wheel weights, due to its resistance to chemical corrosion. Wheel weights are installed on the wheels of vehicles to even out the weight distribution around the rim and stabilize vehicles at high speeds.

Every year, it is estimated that 110 tonnes of lead from wheel weights that are used to balanced tires fall off tire rims while vehicles are driving on roads and highways. The wheel weights eventually turn into dust which builds up in soil, enters waterways through runoffs, or can be inhaled.

Lead wheel weights that aren’t properly recycled after a car is dismantled can also contribute to lead exposure.

The new regulations are designed to limit the health risks to humans, fish, and wildlife in Canada, and also prevent Canada from becoming a “dumping ground” for lead wheel weights from other regions that already have legislation regarding lead products in place, such as Europe, Japan, and certain US states (California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington).

The regulation will come into force on Feb. 3, 2024, meaning importers and manufacturers will have until that time to transition to an alternative material, such as steel.

Read the Prohibition of the Manufacture and Importation of Wheel Weights Containing Lead Regulations here.

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