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California and Washington copper brake limits go into effect, Jan. 1

Sale of automotive brakes containing more than 5 percent copper will be prohibited to limit the amount of copper in waterways; by 2025, brakes must contain less that 5 percent copper

Beginning Jan. 1, the states of California and Washington will not permit the sale of automotive brakes containing more than 5 percent copper. The ban on excessive copper stems from a pair of 2010 laws designed to limit the amount of the chemical in waterways. By 2025, brakes must contain less that 0.5 percent copper.

Copper is used as a friction material in brake pads as it effectively dissipates heat and allows for smooth braking. However, each time a vehicle’s brakes are applied, copper dust is released which eventually makes its way into waterways where it is toxic to marine life.

In 2015, brake manufacturers, automakers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreeing to adopt California’s and Washington’s standards, and to phase out the use of copper brake pads.

Suzanne Davis, senior hazardous substances engineer for the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), outlined the following new requirements for brake friction materials. They must:

  • Contain less than 5.0 percent copper by weight (Health and Safety Code (HSC) section 25250.52)
  • Be used on all new vehicles and their replacement brakes sold in California on and after January 1, 2021 (HSC section 25250.60(d) and (e))
  • Meet the “Level B” environmental compliance level per California Code of Regulations, title 22, section 66387.8(c),
  • Be marked with a “marked proof of certification” per California Code of Regulations, title 22, section 66387.7, and
  • Be registered with a testing certification agency per California Code of Regulations, title 22, section 66387.3.

Both states have published guidance and FAQ on each law’s implementation:


Questions regarding the California Brake Pad law can be directed to Suzanne Davis at suzanne.davis@dtsc.ca.gov or Melissa Salinas at melissa.salinas@dtsc.ca.gov.

Questions regarding the Washington State Better Brakes law can be sent to Kathleen Gilligan at kagi461@ecy.wa.gov.

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