Investigation of release, fate and transport of lead from motor vehicle wheel weights: Research Project Summary



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Trenton, N.J. : New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Science


Lead is a well-known pollutant with documented toxicity. Lead-containing weights used to balance motor vehicle wheels are regularly lost from vehicles and enter the environment where they are ground into small particles by traffic, thus releasing small particles of lead to the environment and potentially contributing significantly to human exposures. The purpose of this study was to measure the quantity and to assess the form and fate of lead that enters the environment from wheel weights, and to estimate the exposure potential that this lead might represent as compared with other measured and estimated inputs of lead to the environment. This study found that approximately 12 tons per year of lead in the form of wheel weights are deposited on New Jersey roadways, but that only approximately 40 kg of this enters the environment in the form of small particles that are likely to result from the abrasion and grinding action of traffic. This study indicates that, relative to other sources, the amount of lead dispersed in the form of small particles to the environment from wheel weights is small. Further, the quantity of lead released via wheel weights appears likely to decline because of state-level legislation, voluntary phase-outs by manufacturers, and new trends in wheel technology.



New Jersey