In 2010, Washington and California passed legislation that would require any brake pads sold after 2021 to contain less than 5 percent copper by weight. Both laws have provisions that ban the use of asbestos and other toxic substances in brake pads beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

asbestos in brake padsIn addition, brake pads and drums manufactured in these two states must not contain lead, hexavalent chromium and other toxic chemicals.

The laws will also affect automakers and brake manufacturers who might still produce and sell asbestos-containing brake pads. Provisions like this to ban the sale of asbestos in brake pads will help decrease asbestos exposure among auto mechanics and other similar occupations, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.

Even though California and Washington are the first states to implement such laws on asbestos in brake pads, it is not practical for automakers to have one type of brake pads for vehicles in two states and another type for vehicles in other states. Therefore, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association predicts these two laws will provide guidance for national industry standards for brake pads throughout North America in the coming years.

Copper is a major source of water pollution. Because brake pads are a friction material, they release a tiny copper-filled substance onto the roads whenever a driver uses the vehicle’s brakes. Copper on the roads can end up in waterways, such as rivers and ponds, where it can harm marine life like salmon.

According to the Washington Department of Ecology, 21 percent of the copper deposited into Puget Sound every year is a result of brake usage among vehicles.

“You think about all of this traffic, every day on the road, braking and going,” said Curt Hart, spokesman for the Washington Department of Ecology, in a Fox News article. “All of it in total starts to really make a difference.”

In passing the Better Brakes law, Washington became the first state in the nation to phase out the use of copper, asbestos and other harmful toxins in brake pads.