Ranker’s salmon protections drive brake market innovation

December 11th, 2015|

Brake manufacturers now offer brake pads that reduce or eliminate the use of copper, a material toxic to salmon and other aquatic species, as a result of legislation introduced by state Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island.
Ranker’s Senate Bill 6557, passed in 2010, spurred more than 100 manufacturers to develop more than 3,000 different low-copper or copper-free brake pads for sale in Washington state. The law allowed manufacturers five years to develop the new products and became a model for a national agreement between brake manufacturers, states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fully eliminate the use of copper in brakes across the country in coming years. The law also restricts the use of other heavy metals and asbestos in brake pads.
“Copper is deadly to salmon and other marine life,” Ranker said today. “It disrupts their sense of smell and makes them more vulnerable to predators and unable to return to their spawning streams. And it’s especially toxic to young salmon.”
Ranker said copper dust from brakes collects on roadways and is washed into streams and rivers, and has been linked by scientists to the decline of salmon runs across the state. Since 2011, according to the state Dept. of Ecology, the average concentration of copper in brakes has fallen nearly 25 percent.
“Copper enters the environment through numerous sources, including household pesticides and water pipes, but brake pads in particular account for up to half the copper entering our waterways in urban areas,” Ranker said. “We are eliminating a massive source of the toxin.”
Consumers can tell whether the brakes they buy meet low-copper or copper-free standards by looking for the LeafMark on the packaging. Brakes with less than 5 percent copper will have two leaves filled in, while those that contain less than 0.5 percent copper will have all three leaves filled in. Brakes manufactured prior to 2015 may not carry the LeafMark.