Fisheries group sues 13 US tire manufacturers over rubber preservatives that are deadly to salmon



TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Thirteen of the nation’s largest tire manufacturers are ordering two California commercial fishing groups to stop using a chemical added to nearly all tires to kill migrating salmon. is facing a lawsuit from the company.

The rubber preservative 6PPD is also found in footwear, artificial turf, playground equipment, and has been used in tires for 60 years. As tires wear out, small particles of rubber remain on roads and parking lots and break down into a byproduct, his 6PPD-quinone. This is deadly to salmon, steelhead trout, and other aquatic wildlife when washed into rivers by rain.

“This is the biggest environmental disaster that the world doesn’t know much about,” said Elizabeth Forsyth, a lawyer at environmental law firm Earthjustice, which represents fishing groups. “It’s having a devastating impact on endangered and endangered species.”

The Fisheries Research Institute and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisheries Associations filed a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco against Goodyear, Bridgestone, Continental and others.

Bridgestone spokesman Steve Kinkade said in an emailed statement that the company does not comment on the lawsuit, but added, “We remain committed to safety, quality, and the environment, and we remain committed to the use of alternative materials in our products. We will continue to invest in sustainable resource research.”

Several other tire manufacturers did not respond to emails seeking comment. The American Tire Manufacturers Association, which is not named as a defendant, said in a statement last week that work is already underway to identify a chemical to replace 6PPD while meeting federal safety standards. Forcing businesses to change too quickly would have a negative impact on public safety and the economy, he said.

In a separate statement on Wednesday, the association said: “Our members continue to research and develop alternative tire materials that ensure tire performance and do not sacrifice safety, which is an important step towards the sustainability of our industry. “This is consistent with our commitment to respecting the environment.”

The fishing groups filed the lawsuit a week after U.S. regulators announced they would review the use of 6PPD in tires in response to a petition from three West Coast Native American tribes. Coho salmon appears to be particularly sensitive to preservatives. They could be killed within hours, the tribe claimed.

The Yurok Tribe of California and the Port Gamble-Sklallam and Puyallup Tribes of Washington state asked the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year to ban 6PPD.

The agency’s decision to grant the petition is the beginning of a long regulatory process with an eye toward banning the petition, helping to restore salmon populations and the Pacific Northwest’s endangered killer whales that depend on them. This is one of the various efforts being made to achieve this goal.

The effects of this chemical on human health are unknown, the EPA noted.

Forsythe said that as long as 6PPD remains in the tires, the companies need a federal permit that allows them to harm species protected under the Endangered Species Act. That would require showing that harm to salmon was reduced as much as possible, which could mean funding stormwater improvements to keep chemicals out of aquatic habitat.

None of the tire companies have such permits, according to the complaint.

“This is an issue that the industry itself has known for over a decade,” said Glenn Spain, Northwest regional director for the Aquatic Resources Institute. “We can’t just sit back and expect this disease to go away. It’s not going to go away.”

Commercial fishermen represented by the group say they make a living from fish.

Replacing rubber with durable chemicals without killing fish is a difficult challenge, but one the industry can tackle, Forsyth said. “We are the country that figured out how to take the lead out of gasoline and still run our cars.” “If we can’t create a tire that doesn’t kill up to 100 percent of the coho sharks that return to their native rivers, it’s my fault.” It will be shocking and surprising.”

Salmon spend their larval months or years growing and feeding in freshwater streams and estuaries before entering the ocean and spending the next few years foraging. They then return to the rivers where they were born to spawn.

The chemical’s effects on coho were noted in 2020 by Washington state scientists who were studying why the fish population, which had recovered in Puget Sound several years earlier, was in decline.

“This chemical is ubiquitous in stormwater runoff,” Forsyth said. “It is present throughout aquatic habitats and is ubiquitous at levels that can kill coho salmon at very microscopic levels and harm salmon and steelhead.”

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