Prohibiting Lead Content in Wheel Weights
February 3, 2023
On February 3, 2023, the Governor General on the recommendation of the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Health made the Prohibition of the Manufacture and Importation of Wheel Weights Containing Lead Regulations under subsection 93(1) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
These Regulations apply in respect of wheel weights containing lead that are designed to balance the wheels of a vehicle but do not apply to wheel weights that are in transit through Canada, from a place outside Canada to another place outside Canada. The regulations prohibit a person from manufacturing or importing wheel weights containing more than 0.1% lead by weight, except where allowed by permit and where wheel weights are manufactured for export or wheel weights installed on imported vehicles.
Lead is listed in Schedule 1 (the List of Toxic Substances) to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). CEPA provides the Minister of the Environment (the Minister) and the Minister of Health with the authority to control the importation, manufacture, and use of lead and lead compounds in Canada. Lead is subject to numerous federal risk management initiatives in Canada that target drinking water, food, natural health and therapeutic products, cosmetics, tobacco, and other consumer products.
Lead is an odourless metal that is malleable, ductile, and resistant to chemical corrosion. It is a naturally occurring substance found at low levels in bedrock, soil, sediment, surface water, groundwater, and seawater. Lead also occurs naturally at low levels in food through the uptake of soil by plants and the subsequent consumption of plants by animals, and through the uptake of water and sediments by fish. Its dispersal in the environment is mainly due to human activities, including the use and disposal of products; in particular, lead ammunition, sinkers and jigs for fishing, and wheel weights.
Lead has historically been the preferred metal used for wheel balancing on vehicles because of its physical and chemical properties. Wheel weights are installed on the wheels of vehicles to correct uneven weight distribution in wheel and tire assembly in order to prevent tire and suspension assembly wear, and to help stabilize vehicles at high speeds.
Since the late 1970s, Canadian blood lead levels have declined by more than 70%. This decline is mainly attributed to the successful phase-out of lead in gasoline, paint and surface coatings, and the elimination of lead alloys used for soldering food cans. In 1994, the Federal-Provincial Committee on Environmental and Occupational Health recommended a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL) as guidance for a lead exposure threshold. Since the establishment of this blood-lead threshold, scientific evidence has been published that demonstrates the critical health effects that can occur below a blood-lead level of 10 μg/dL. Health effects are well documented at blood lead levels as low as 1–2 µg/dL. The risks associated with exposure to lead include developmental neurotoxicity and neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, renal, and reproductive effects.
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