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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Asbestos-containing Brake Linings – More Changes Ahead for Canada and the US

Chart from Globe and Mail, March 27, 2015  -

Chart from Globe and Mail, March 27, 2015 -

Sales of asbestos-containing brake linings continue around the world, including in Canada. The types of products and sales volumes are shown in the chart, which is taken from a March 27, 2015 article in the Globe and Mail, by Tavia Grant.  The wide-ranging article includes argumenst back and forth on heath issues, as well as pricing competition issues related to use or non-use of asbestos. Ms. Grant reports, among other things:

According to Statistics Canada figures, imports of asbestos-related items rose to $6-million last year from $4.9-million in 2013. The bulk of these goods consisted of asbestos brake linings and pads, which hit $3.6-million in imports in 2014, a seven-year high. Other imports included raw asbestos, friction materials and some items containing crocidolite, which is considered the most dangerous form of asbestos.

The dollar amounts may not seem like a lot of money given Canada’s overall trade, but in terms of brake pads that translates into hundreds of thousands entering the Canadian market each year. The World Health Organization and other agencies have said that all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic and the best way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop using it.”

Ms. Grant also reported on steps that will over time reduce the metal and asbestiform contents of brake linings in order to reduce the possibility of the metals and fibers washing into streams after falling to roads during operation. Ms. Grant explained:

“On Jan. 21, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Council of the States, the Brake Manufacturers Council and other industry stakeholders that will limit the use of asbestos (along with copper and other elements) in all brake pads including imports, said Bill Hanvey, executive director of the Brake Manufacturers Council, in an interview.”

The MOU is said to arise primarily from efforts by California and Washington (the state) to reduce the levels of metal in brakes, including reductions in copper, as described at  The MOU is online – here. The MOU begins with the following explanation of the effort:

“The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) and the vehicle industry signatories, Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), Brake Manufacturers Council (BMC), Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA), Auto Care Association, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Alliance), Association of Global Automakers, Inc. (Global Automakers), and Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) is to reduce heavy metals and other pollutants in stormwater runoff from roads and highways by promoting and facilitating the phase out – consistent with the terms of this MOU – of copper, asbestiform fibers, cadmium and its compounds, chromium (VI)-salts, lead and its compounds, and mercury and its compounds (copper and other constituents) in motor vehicle brake friction materials (also called brake pads). Debris from brake pads are one source of these pollutants Page 2 in stormwater discharges, and reducing or eliminating the use of these compounds at the source has the potential to reduce environmental exposure of these materials in watersheds and waterways. This effort will be called the “Copper-free Brake Initiative.”

B. The Parties intend to implement this Copper-free Brake Initiative to phase-out copper and other constituents used in brake pads nationwide (see Appendix 1 for party descriptions). The voluntary practices and approaches described in the Copper-free Brake Initiative are modeled on laws and regulations currently in place in the states of Washington and California, which have taken the lead in establishing requirements to phase out the use of copper and other constituents used in brake pads. The signatories also agree to educate service providers and other stakeholders about the changes being made to these products, as designated in Section VI. “Responsibilities and Intentions of the Parties” of the Copper-free Brake Initiative.”

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