Summary of comments and responses following consultations on Risk management options for lead wheel weights in Canada (August 2014)

Overview

A Risk Management Strategy for Lead was published by Health Canada in 2013 to explore current and additional Government of Canada actions to further reduce Canadians’ exposure to lead. The Strategy contains clear objectives, performance expectations, and timelines. Amongst the objectives, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) committed to investigate the need for action to encourage the use of alternatives to lead wheel weights in Canada.

A public consultation session was held in Toronto, Ontario on August 26, 2014 on proposed options to phase-out lead wheel weights in the Canadian market, followed by a 30-day comment period that ended on September 26th 2014. Stakeholders had an opportunity to provide feedback on the following options:

  • Regulations: Prohibit the manufacture and import of lead wheel weights destined for use in the Canadian market.
  • Environmental Performance Agreement (EPA): Develop an agreement with key stakeholders (e.g., wheel weight manufacturers, importers, distributors and main tire dealers) to phase-out lead wheel weights in Canada.

Over 20 stakeholders attended the public consultation session in person and an additional 12 stakeholders provided comments to ECCC during the online the public comment period. In total, ECCC received 85 comments on a variety of subjects. Below is a summary of the comments received, and ECCC’s responses organized by the following topics:

For more information on the outcomes of this consultation, please see section on Next Steps and Anticipated Timelines.

Need for action

Summary of comments: Almost all stakeholders expressed support for the phase-out of lead wheel weights in the Canadian market. Stakeholders acknowledged that lead exposure is a concern to the environment and human health. Stakeholders recognized that health effects could occur below the Canadian blood intervention level of 10 µg/dL and that lead wheel weights that fall-off cars during their service life contribute to the release of lead in the environment. Stakeholders also raised concerns about exposure to lead by technicians and mechanics who frequently install and remove lead wheel weights.

Response: ECCC proposes to prohibit the manufacture and import of lead wheel weights destined for the Canadian market. This approach will prevent new wheel weights containing lead from entering the market, thereby progressively reducing Canadian wheel weight stocks. Accordingly, within 5 years after these regulations come into force, ECCC anticipates a 90% reduction of lead wheel weights lost on Canadian roads within 5 years after these regulations come into force.

The Government considered several factors during the instrument selection process. These included the time required to develop the instrument, enforcement requirements, past experiences with similar sectors, stakeholder consultations and the instrument’s ability to achieve the risk management objective (i.e., encourage the use of non-lead wheel weights in the Canadian market).

Provincial and federal work and safety regulations are responsible for workplace safety conditions related to the safe handling of lead wheel weights. Additional action for workplace safety is not anticipated at this time.

Other sources of lead exposure

Summary of comments: Stakeholders raised concerns about focussing on the risks related to lead wheel weights while several other products contribute to Canadians’ exposure to lead, including batteries, lead waste and ammunition.

Response: Lead is currently subject to numerous federal risk management initiatives directed at consumer products, cosmetics, drinking water, food, natural health products, therapeutic products, tobacco, and environmental media, such as household dust, soil and air. The Government of Canada recognizes that these initiatives have led to a significant reduction in Canadians’ exposure to lead.

In response to increasing scientific evidence of the health effects resulting from low levels of exposure to lead, Health Canada published a Risk Management Strategy for Lead. This strategy identified additional measures to further reduce risks associated with exposure to lead. Amongst these initiatives, ECCC is investigating opportunities to encourage the use of alternatives to lead in other consumer products such as ammunition, construction sheeting and jigs and sinkers.

Preferred risk management option

Support for regulations

Summary of comments: The majority of stakeholders expressed their preference for regulations over a voluntary instrument such as an Environmental Performance Agreement (EPA). Stakeholders noted that regulations would guarantee a complete phase-out of lead wheel weights from the Canadian market within a few years after the regulations come into force and would create a level playing field in the market place. Finally, they indicated that regulations would help Canada align with other jurisdictions such the European Union and several US states that have already taken regulatory actions.

Response: ECCC proposes to develop and implement regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) that will prohibit the manufacture and import of lead wheel weights destined for the Canadian market.

Regulations would create a level playing field in the market and allow Canada to align with existing prohibitions in other jurisdictions that have achieved lead-free wheel weight markets such as the European Union and several US states including New York, Minnesota, Maine, Illinois and California.

Support for an Environmental protection agreement (EPA)

Summary of comments: The few stakeholders who expressed support for an EPA prefer a voluntary instrument because it can offer opportunities to negotiate terms amongst the parties, be developed and implemented in a shorter timeframe, and allow for a quicker transition to a lead-free wheel weight market.

Response: ECCC acknowledges that some stakeholders may prefer a voluntary approach to regulations. However, the evidence suggests that jurisdictions that using voluntary measures have not seen significant reductions in lead in wheel weights compared to those that have taken regulatory action. For example, in 2009, the United States Environmental Protection Agency established the National Lead Free Wheel Weight Initiative to encourage manufacturers and several retailers to use alternatives to lead. However, lead wheel weights still represent over 50% of the market in the U.S. Industry stakeholders have stated that the market shift towards lead alternatives was primarily driven by state level regulations.

Available alternatives

Comment: The majority of stakeholders indicated that industry is ready to switch to lead-free wheel weights. Manufacturers identified steel and zinc, produced and sold in Canada for several years, as the primary alternatives to the use of lead in wheel weights. Manufacturers confirmed that alternatives in some product lines are now on par with or lower than the cost of lead. Some stakeholders indicated that a switch to lead-free alternatives would drive economies of scale, lower the cost of alternatives and encourage investments in newer technologies.

However, stakeholders also stated that lead wheel weights remain the preferred and most in-demand type on the market. As a result, aftermarket repair shops may not easily accept a switch to wheel weights made of alternative materials. Stakeholders noted that a lack of proper training and knowledge by repair shops could be an obstacle to their acceptance of alternatives. Furthermore, a few stakeholders indicated that the alternatives to lead wheel weights (e.g., steel, zinc, bismuth) may not perform as well, may have a tendency to rust, may be more difficult to install on wheel rims, and may be more likely to fall off. Some stakeholders reported that the costs associated with the use of lead alternatives could affect smaller aftermarket facilities.

Response: An ECCC commissioned study found that the availability of wheel weight alternatives has increased, but that the market has leveled-offFootnote 1. The study reported that steel is the most widely used alternative in Canada, followed by zinc. Manufacturers have indicated that alternatives meet the same product performance standards as lead.

ECCC acknowledges that certain alternatives may cost more and be more difficult to install. However, the price difference has significantly narrowed over the last 10 years and issues with installation can be easily overcome with proper training. ECCC does not anticipate the transition to alternatives to significantly impact the overall operational expenses of repair shops in Canada.

The Government of Canada will be assessing zinc as one of the substance groups in the third phase of the Chemicals Management Plan. The draft screening assessment report is anticipated to be published in 2017-2018.

Data clarification

Summary of comments: Stakeholders sought clarification on estimates of unaccounted for lead wheel weights removed by aftermarket facilities and dismantlers. They stated that a significant proportion of the 644 tonnes could have been given to hobbyists to make homemade hunting ammunition and fishing jigs/sinkers, exported to foreign smelters for profit, or stored until sufficient volumes and prices can justify sending them to smelters. Wheel weights may be re-installed after their initial service life by aftermarket facilities; although it is unclear how prevalent this practice is in Canada. Stakeholders requested that ECCC refine its market data and provide clarification on the fate of unaccounted for lead wheel weights removed by aftermarket facilities in Canada.

Response: In 2015, ECCC commissioned a study on the fate of the 644 tonnes of unaccounted for lead wheel weights removed by aftermarket facilities in Canada. The study found that over 96% of used wheel weights were properly collected and recycled and that approximately 7% of aftermarket facilities reported giving or selling an unspecified number of wheel weights to hobbyists within the last year.Footnote 2

Non-traditional retailers

Summary of comments: Stakeholders wanted to know how much online stores (i.e., ebay and Kijiji) contribute to commerce in lead wheel weights in Canada. They suggested that hobbyists could acquire an unknown quantity of weights from other countries (e.g., US) and import them into Canada for re-sale or personal use in the making of lead-based products (e.g., ammunition and sinkers/jigs). 

Response: ECCC monitored Canadian and American websites (ebay, Amazon and Kijiji) from October 2014 to January 2015 (i.e., peak tire-changing period) to determine the amount of lead wheel weights sold online.Footnote 3 It was estimated that approximately 4 tonnes of lead wheel weights were available for purchase on these sites at any given time. The exact number of lead weights entering the Canadian market or sold to hobbyists through online sources could not be determined. However, 4 tonnes of lead wheel weights available for purchase online is minor compared to the estimated 1,850 tonnes sold annually in Canada through traditional retailers.

Best management practices

End of life recycling

Summary of comments: Smelters raised concerns about the recycling of mixed materials (e.g., zinc, lead, and steel). Stakeholders stated that alternatives, specifically zinc, which has a similar fusion point to lead, could be difficult to extract during the smelting process. Therefore, as alternatives become more prevalent, the return-to-value of mixed material will continue to decrease.

Response: Lead wheel weights represent a small percentage of the recycled lead content that comes from a vehicle. A study commissioned by ECCC in 2012 showed that approximately 90%-95% of recycled lead comes from lead-acid batteriesFootnote 4. As a result, the transition to alternative wheel weights is expected to have minimal impacts on recyclers’ overall feedstock.

The Tire Industry Association (TIA) developed Environmental Best Practices for transitioning away from lead, which includes proper management and recycling of wheel weightsFootnote5. ECCC will continue to work with industry to encourage the use of best management practices by all facilities.

Waste management

Summary of comments: Stakeholders suggested that waste regulations be considered if lead wheel weights are not sorted or disposed of properly by aftermarket facilities.

Response: An ECCC commissioned study showed that lead is currently well managed in the waste stream (i.e., over 96% of old wheel weights are recycled)Footnote6. ECCC will continue to work with industry to encourage best management practices at all facilities and will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that wheel weights continue to be properly recycled in Canada.

New management practices

Summary of comments: Certain stakeholders were interested in helping ECCC develop best management practices in Canada to promote the proper handling, management and recycling of lead wheel weights while encouraging the use of alternatives.

Response: ECCC will continue to work with industry to encourage the adoption of best management practices by all facilities.

Stakeholder engagement

Summary of comments: Stakeholders want to be engaged throughout the risk management process to share knowledge of existing best management practices and continue an open dialogue on current management strategies.

Response: ECCC recognizes that continued dialogue with stakeholders is an important part of developing and implementing a risk management instrument. Stakeholders will have opportunities to provide their input throughout the regulatory process. Public consultations on the proposed regulatory approach will be held in winter 2017 and a 60-day comment period following the publication of the proposed regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part I.

ECCC will work with industry through the regulations’ transition period to ensure that facility owners and operators subject to the regulations are aware of and understand their obligations.

Confidentiality

Comment: One stakeholder requested that any information and data provided to ECCC remain confidential in order to avoid potential risks to their businesses.

Response: ECCC acknowledges that confidentiality may be important in some contexts, e.g. trade secrets. Accordingly, a person who provides information to the Minister under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) may submit a written request under section 313(1) that the information provided be treated as confidential, subject to certain exceptions.

Next steps and anticipated timelines

Overall stakeholders indicated a preference for a regulatory approach. Accordingly, ECCC proposes to develop regulations to prohibit the manufacture and import of lead wheel weights destined for the Canadian market. More information on the regulatory framework and content of the proposed regulatory instrument is available on-line.

ECCC recognizes that stakeholder consultations are an important part of the development and implementation of a risk management instrument. Accordingly, stakeholders will have opportunities to provide their input throughout the development of the proposed regulations. Interested stakeholders are invited to take part in an information webinar to be held on March 9, 2017 and to provide feedback on the proposed regulations during the 60-day comment period following their publication in the Canada Gazette, Part I.

Next step

Timeline

Webinar presentation and discussion
March 9, 2017
30-day electronic public consultation period on the proposed regulatory framework and content of the regulations
April 6, 2017
Publication of the proposed regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part I for a 60-day public comment period
Spring 2018
Publication of final regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II
2019
Coming into force of the regulations
2020
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