WASHINGTON — The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) is urging officials in Washington state to work together with California to conduct research into the environmental impact of a tire manufacturing additive linked to coho salmon population deaths in the Pacific Northwest.
The USTMA made its plea after it came to light that Washington's 2022 annual state budget includes about $2.7 million in funding for studying 6ppd-quinone, a transformation product of the tire manufacturing additive 6ppd, which has been linked to "unexplained acute mortality" when adult salmon migrate to urban creeks to reproduce.
The antioxidant additive 6ppd prevents cracking and heat buildup in tires and is essential to consumer safety, the USTMA has stated in the past.
"USTMA encourages the state of Washington to use its newly allocated budget to fund research that will complement rather than duplicate the alternatives analysis already under way in California," the USTMA said.
"There are still significant data gaps on 6ppd-quinone, and filling these gaps is crucial to identifying viable alternatives to 6ppd that not only reduce the environmental impact caused by 6ppd-quinone, but also meet required safety and performance standards in tires."
Within the $2.7 million allocated by the Washington state legislature, $1.4 million is for "monitoring and mitigation," while another $1.3 million is to study alternatives to the 6ppd.
"Tires are highly engineered products consisting of hundreds of chemicals that interact to provide safety and performance," the USTMA said, "and the industry is eager to work together with researchers and regulators to achieve the goals we all share and identify potential improvements without sacrificing safety and performance."
Research on this toxic substance (a previously unknown transformation product that may form when the additive 6ppd interacts with ozone) and other chemicals that can be found in tire road wear particles has taken on an immediacy like few other sustainability issues, one that has gotten the attention of the USTMA and the CEOs leading the Tire Industry Project.
The USTMA said Nov. 15, 2021, at the 42nd Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Conference that it will provide cryogenically milled tire tread (CMTT), a difficult-to-produce research material currently not available on the market, by the second quarter of 2022.
The USTMA has contracted with an outside laboratory to create CMTT, essentially a laboratory version of tire road wear particles (TRWP) but without any of the chemicals or minerals associated with pavement interaction.
The material will be mass-produced for anyone wishing to study TRWP and its effects, including those being seen in coho salmon. CMTT is not a direct replacement for the study of TRWP, but allows researchers to isolate and focus studies on the tire tread component.
The USTMA has been partnering with the University of Washington since 2019 on the study of urban runoff mortality syndrome, the technical name for what is affecting the coho salmon.
Also known as silver salmon, coho are prized among fishermen and an important indicator species for environmental health. Their range stretches from creeks nestled in the redwood forests near Santa Cruz north to the waters of Alaska.
The few coho populations that still exist in California are either endangered or threatened, according to the California Natural Resources Agency.
At this point it does not appear that any other fish or animal species are affected by the chemical 6ppd-quinone, but the University of Washington study cautioned that the possibility should be considered.