What Ever Happened to the Copper in Brake Pads?

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NEW YORK — The following is from an article by Mohammad Vakili posted on the Brake Academy website:

It all started with a phone call from Stanford Law School in mid-1995…

Fast forward some 15 years from 1995, during which a collaborative effort of fact-finding was pursued by all parties involved. In 2010 the California State Senate passed a bill, SB346, by Senator Kehoe.

Following current regulatory guidelines for heavy metals and asbestiform in 2010, the environmentalist came up with the limitation in Level A. The gradual copper reduction in brake pads through 2025 was arrived at by all stakeholders.

  • All by weight (“A” Level)
  • Cadmium and its compound: 0.01 percent
  • Chromium (VI) salts: 0.1 percent
  • Lead and its compound: 0.1 percent
  • Mercury and its compound: 0.1 percent
  • Asbestiform fibers: 0.1 percent
  • 5 percent Cu by wt. in brake lining by 2021. (“B” Level)
  • 0.5 percent Cu by wt. in brake lining by 2025. (“N” Level)
  • Cert. of Compliance by 3rd party required Jan 1, 2014.
  • Leaf Marking would be associated with each level. A one leaf, B two leaves, N three leaves.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican Governor of California, and an environmentalist at heart, wasted no time to sign the bill into law. The writing was no longer on the wall, it was on paper, signed sealed and delivered! Compliance was underway. Similar regulations were enacted in Washington (SB 6557), Oregon (SB 341 Proposed), and New York (S 1356 Proposed). Enforcement: Civil penalty of $10,000 per violation.

In January 2015 a voluntary Government-Industry Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed. For details, please see https://www.epa.gov/node/125637 

Quoting from Limitation under the MOU, it reads:

“This Copper-free Brake Initiative is a voluntary agreement that expresses the good-faith intentions of the parties and is not intended to be legally binding or create any contractual obligations on any party”

As of September 2021, some 75 percent of registered brake friction material formulations are ahead of the scheduled 0.5% copper in brake pads, meeting N level.

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What is not covered under these regulations are all military and emergency vehicles, i.e., ambulances, fire engines. Race cars, except in California. All off-highway vehicles. All brakes that are immersed in oil or water or enclosed in some form. All drum brakes. All brakes that hold vehicles in a stationary position such as drum-in-hat and truck blocks. And all motorcycles. The entire post can be viewed by clicking HERE.

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The Brake Report

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