The Brake Pad Copper Controversy

The Brake Pad Copper Controversy

The controversy around copper in brake pads actually started with fish. If you’ve knit your eyebrows together confused, let me explain: Fish find their way to their homes through smell. Over time, biologists realized that copper in the water could short circuit this critical sense fish used to find home. Then, they started to look at the entire ecosystem and began to see copper in plankton and up through the food chain.

The source of the copper was a mystery at first. It was not leaking out of the ground or coming from house wiring. The scientists soon realized that the source was water runoff from roads and the leading contributor was brake pads and shoes.

Yet instead of overreacting and issuing strict bans of copper in friction materials, the environmental regulators worked with the brake industry to set new standards and laws. This new approach was in sharp contrast to other automotive regulatory initiatives that failed in the past due to heavy-handed governmental oversight that put the safety of consumers at risk, as when the first asbestos bans were enacted. These previous bans left the brake industry scrambling for alternatives, caused truck trailers to become unstable and even prompted the recall of the GM X-Car for rear brake problems.

What they came up with was a timetable for the phasing in of new products that limited copper levels and other harmful ingredients in friction materials. They also came up with a regulatory structure that rewarded companies who complied with the new standards. While the initial focus was on the fish, it has made it safer for people who work on brakes and has given the aftermarket a new level of accountability long before scheduled mandates.

The push for better brake pads started in 1998, when the Brake Pad Partnership was formed in California. This is a collaborative group of brake manufacturers, environmentalists, stormwater management entities and regulators that initially came together to understand the impact of brake pad wear debris on the environment. Before the Partnership committed to investing significant state and private resources in technical studies, the Brake Manufacturers Council (BMC) and its members agreed to introduce reformulated products within five years if the technical studies indicated that copper in brake pads was contributing significantly to water quality impairment.

In 2007, the partnership completed a series of interlinked laboratory, environmental monitoring and environmental modeling studies that indicated brake pads are a substantial contributor of copper in runoff to the San Francisco Bay. The recommendations and research of this partnership have served as the foundation of the Washington state law known as the Better Brake Law.

If you are a shop owner or technician, you have already seen the three-leaf symbol on the side of a box of brake pads. The presence of the leaves and the number of solid leaves indicates the level of compliance and, most of all, accountability.

To learn more about the three-leaf symbol on brake pads and how it’s contributing to environmental and technician safety, click here to read the full article from Andrew Markel, director of content for Babcox Media’s Brake & Front End, a sister publication of Tire Review.

You May Also Like

Step by Step: How to Properly Change an EV Tire

Tire changing is a straightforward procedure for most technicians, but the transition from ICE vehicles to EVs will introduce some changes.

EV on Lift

As electric vehicles (EVs) rapidly transform the automotive landscape, routine tasks like tire changes will take on new complexity, requiring updated equipment and increased technician training. Tire changing is a straightforward procedure for most technicians, but the transition from ICE vehicles to EVs will introduce some changes, particularly when it comes to addressing the added weight of EVs.

Mounting & Demounting a Tire the Correct Way

In both rim clamp and pedestal tire changers, specific techniques are followed to ensure correct dismounting and mounting of tires.

Reverse-wheel-adapter
Why Updating Your TPMS Tools Regularly Matters

To maintain the accuracy and reliability of newly programmed TPMS sensors, it’s important to keep your TPMS programming tool up to date.

TPMS Stock
Check TPMS, Save on Fuel for Your Next Road Trip

Discover the benefits of TPMS for enhancing safety, fuel efficiency and peace of mind during long road trips.

TPMS-relearn
Troubleshooting Porsche TPMS

Tips for diagnosing Porsche TPMS systems and performing relearns.

Porsche TPMS

Other Posts

Momentum USA Unveils AmeriPlatinum Max Duty Brake Pads

AmeriPlatinum Max Duty brake pads will provide three levels of protection for fleet, emergency service and other severe-duty requirements.

AmeriPlatium-plus-max-duty
Is Your Shop Ready for the EV Wave?

Doug Kaufman talks with Susan Starnes, vice president of emerging markets with NAPA and Jake Sorensen, a NAPA Auto Care technician at McNeil’s Autocare in Sandy and Riverton, UT.

ServiceEVs
Sell Customers on Your Service Options, Not Price

We dive into the reasons why quality and service should take precedence over price when choosing an automotive service provider.

Continental-sell-service-options
Is Your Equipment Ready for A/C Service Season?

Prepare your customer’s A/C for the summer with these maintenance tips.

A-C-Machine-1400