Lead loading of urban streets by motor vehicle wheel weights

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


This study documents that lead weights, which are used to balance motor vehicle wheels, are lost and deposited in urban streets, that they accumulate along the outer curb, and that they are rapidly abraded and ground into tiny pieces by vehicle traffic. The lead is so soft that half the lead deposited in the street is no longer visible after little more than 1 week. This lead loading of urban streets by motor vehicle wheel weights is continuous, significant, and widespread, and is potentially a major source of human lead exposure because the lead is concentrated along the outer curb where pedestrians are likely to step. Lead deposition at one intersection in Albuquerque, New Mexico, ranged from 50 to 70 kg/km/year (almost 11 g/ft2/year along the outer curb), a mass loading rate that, if accumulated for a year, would exceed federal lead hazard guidelines more than 10,000 times. Lead loading of major Albuquerque thoroughfares is estimated to be 3,730 kg/year. Wheel weight lead may be dispersed as fugitive dust, flushed periodically by storm water into nearby waterways and aquatic ecosystems, or may adhere to the shoes of pedestrians or the feet of pets, where it can be tracked into the home. I propose that lead from wheel weights contributes to the lead burden of urban populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)937-940
Number of pages4
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Antimonious lead
  • Antimony
  • Lead
  • Lead loading
  • Lead poisoning
  • Lead pollution
  • Motor vehicle wheel weights
  • Street lead
  • Urban lead
  • Wheel weights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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