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Established in 1973, the AASA / MEMA Brake Manufacturers Council (BMC) represents most of the brake friction products manufactured and sold in North America. While functioning in the marketplace as competitors, BMC members work cooperatively to improve their products – enhancing safety and efficiency while minimizing the environmental impact.

A History of Self-Regulation

One of the primary tenets of the BMC is self-regulation. An example of this self-regulating spirit is the BMC’s response to the use of asbestos in brakes. 

Until the early 1980s, asbestos was a key ingredient in brake friction. Fibers were used in brakes to control the high heat created by friction. However, asbestos was found to be hazardous to health and in 1986 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a ban of nearly all products containing asbestos including brake friction.

While the EPA ban was challenged and eventually overturned in the courts, members of the BMC pushed forward and voluntarily discontinued the use of asbestos in brake friction products.

The Search for Asbestos Alternatives

While phasing out asbestos, brake manufacturers sought a safer alternative to control extreme heat in brake friction. Copper had properties needed to control these issues and by the early 1990s, was a common element component in brake products.

 In the late 1990s, an environmental situation came to light in California. Environmentalists raised the concern that copper entering the water shed was negatively impacting the state’s eco system. While there are many copper products and by-products in public waterways, the environmentalists contended that brake dust was the largest contributor. 

BMC again acted in the spirit of collaboration and self-regulation. Members invested time, money and other resources to determine the validity of those claims. The resulting research showed that brake dust was a contributor to copper in the California waterways. However, it was never determined whether brake products were the largest contributor.

BMC members formed its Product Environment Committee (PEC) in the new millennium to address these concerns. Comprised of top engineers and scientists from BMC member companies, the PEC worked with state agencies to protect the environment.

Copper in Brakes Regulated by State Laws

Through present day, BMC members have performed as good corporate citizens – working with state agencies to address environmental concerns, searching for copper substitutes in friction products and maintaining safe vehicle systems. Despite these efforts, the States of California and Washington introduced legislation to eliminate copper in brake friction.

The BMC and its parent associations – the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) and the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) – immediately went to work with legislators in both states. As a result, laws were passed in both California and Washington that protect the environment while allowing brake manufacturers to continue the search for safe, effective alternatives to copper in brake pads.

BMC Led the Way to Create a National Memorandum of Understanding

In 2015, MEMA and the BMC led efforts that culminated in the national Memorandum of Understanding that establishes a voluntary agreement to phase out copper to no more than 0.50 percent by weight in brake friction materials sold anywhere in the U.S. by January 2025.

The manufacturers of friction products represented on the BMC are committed to compliance and development of the next generation of brake products. These businesses annually invest significant portions of their corporate budgets in research and development of products that are safe and protect the environment.

Brake manufacturers are already investing in research and development to produce materials compliant to California and Washington laws. These products will be rolled out nationwide, not just in those states. One of the benefits of the MOU, is that industry and government have agreed to a pathway that friction material manufacturers and their customers (OEMs) to eliminate copper in brake pads by 2025 to 0.5 percent by weight. Thus, additional state laws are not necessary.

For more information, please contact:

MEMA or Copper - Leigh Merino, Senior Director - Regulatory Affairs, MEMA

AASA or BMC – Ben Brucato, Senior Director – Membership, AASA

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