Limiting Copper in Brake Pads

Comment period closed on the informal draft regulations for the California Brake Pad Law

On September 5, 2014, the comment period on the draft informal regulations for the Brake Friction Material Law (Health and Safety Code sections 25250.50 et.seq.) closed.  The department is reviewing the comments received.  Comments and responses will be posted on our Web page in the next few weeks.

Brake Pad Legislation

On September 27, 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill (SB) 346 which will prohibit the sale of automobile brake pads sold in California containing more than trace amounts of copper, certain heavy metals, and asbestos. The purpose of this law is to reduce the amount of copper and other toxic substances released from brakes from entering California’s streams, rivers, and marine environment. This new law bans brake pads containing more than trace amounts of heavy metals and asbestos in 2014 and then also bans brake pads containing more than 5 percent copper in 2021.  By 2025, the law reduces the amount of copper allowed to almost zero. Copper is toxic to many aquatic organisms and limiting the copper content of brakes is essential to comply with a federal Clean Water Act mandate, including copper water quality standards and copper total maximum daily loads in California’s urban watersheds.

The law requires that manufacturers comply with laboratory testing and certify with a mark their products comply with the restrictions set for brake pads.  DTSC, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Brake Materials Environmental Task Force have developed the criteria for testing and marking brake pads that meet the restrictions listed below. Washington State passed a similar law earlier in 2010 and adopted regulations on October 19, 2012.  Since DTSC has not promulgated regulations regarding the testing protocol, marking or the certification agency requirements, the material presented on this web page should be considered for informational purposes only.

Restriction Date
SAE Environmental Marking
Description of Associated Action
On or After January 1, 2014
A

Prohibit the sale of any motor vehicle brake friction materials exceeding the following concentrations: 
     - Cadmium exceeding 0.01% by weight.
     - Chromium (VI) salts exceeding 0.1% by weight.
     - Lead exceeding 0.1% by weight.
     - Mercury exceeding 0.1% by weight.
     - Asbestiform fibers exceeding 0.1% by weight.

On or After January 1, 2021
B
Prohibit the sale of any vehicle brake friction material containing greater than 5% copper by weight in the state. This symbol also indicates the material meets the requirements listed for the "A" environmental marking.
On or After January 1, 2025
N
Prohibit the sale of any vehicle brake friction material containing greater than 0.5% copper by weight in the state. This symbol also indicates the material meets the requirements listed for the "A" environmental marking.

The law requires brake friction material manufacturers to certify and mark that their products meet the prohibitions listed above by the restriction date.

What do you need to do now?

Starting in 2014, you will be able to see marking on the product to show that the material meets cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury or asbestos restrictions.  The manufacturer is required by law to have their brake friction material certified by a testing certification agency (a.k.a., registrar).  To date, the only registrar identified by the industry is NSF International.  A list of certified brake friction material formulations can be viewed here.

Questions?

For questions regarding the California Brake Pad law, please contact either Evelia Rodriguez (evelia.rodriguez@dtsc.ca.gov, 916-327-6104) or Suzanne Davis (suzanne.davis@dtsc.ca.gov, 916-327-4206).

For questions regarding the Washington State Better Brakes law, please contact Ian Wesley (iwes461@ecy.wa.gov, 360-407-6747).