The lawsuit was brought by the environmental group Earthjustice on behalf of the Aquatic Resources Institute and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives, and was filed earlier this month by the Environmental Protection Agency following petitions from three California Native American tribes. This follows the decision to review chemical substances. and Washington state.
“It’s horrifying,” said Elizabeth Forsyth, Earthjustice’s lead attorney. “This is the biggest environmental catastrophe the world has yet to realize.”
Here’s what you need to know:
6PPD is a chemical used in tires to make them last longer. When it comes into contact with ozone in the air, it changes to 6PPD-quinone. According to the EPA, 6PPD-q exists as small particles on the surface of tires and on roads. When it rains, rainwater runs off and flows into streams and rivers. There, they come into contact with aquatic life.
How does 6PPD-q harm salmon?
In 2020, a study was published in the journal Science. Linked 6PPD-q to coho salmon deaths in the Pacific Northwest. Other studies have since been conducted, including a 2022 study that suggested the chemical also had negative effects on steelhead trout and Chinook salmon. That same year, another study found that two species of trout were sensitive to the chemical. In these studies, some fish such as sockeye salmon and white sturgeon did not appear to be affected.
What do salmon advocates want?
Earlier this year, the Yurok, Port Gamble-Sklallam, and Puyallup Indian tribes filed a request with the EPA. The use of 6PPD in tires is prohibited. Ecosystems, tribes and local economies on the West Coast depend on salmon, and the chemicals are killing them.
EPA’s recent decision was in response to that petition. The agency said it plans to study the chemical, including its effects on human health. This review is part of a rulemaking process that could lead to a ban on 6PPD.
What do tire manufacturers do?
Tire manufacturers are trying to find alternatives to the chemical, according to the American Tire Manufacturers Association, an industry group.
In a statement released on November 3, “We look forward to continuing this work by working with EPA to identify alternatives to the 6PPD and implementing them in a time frame consistent with public safety,” the group said.
The association, whose members include 12 of the 13 defendants, added that it has not yet found an alternative that meets federal safety requirements.
“We are the country that figured out how to put a man on the moon,” Forsyth said. “I would be shocked if we could not develop a tire that would not kill up to 100% of coho salmon returning to urban watersheds.”