Tire Makers Say They're Not Liable for Waterway Pollution Because It Takes Years

Tire Makers Say They're Not Liable for Waterway Pollution Because It Takes Years photo
Tire Makers Say They're Not Liable for Waterway Pollution Because It Takes Years photo

Major tire manufacturers are trying to have a lawsuit filed against them over environmental pollution dismissed. The suit concerns a chemical used in tire production, which has been found to rapidly kill fish commonly harvested for food, such as salmon. In essence, the tire makers' argument boils down to them not being liable because it can take years for the chemical to be released into fish habitats.

The suit was filed in a federal court in San Francisco, California by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and nonprofit Institute for Fisheries Resources according to Reuters. It targets Michelin, Goodyear, Bridgestone, and 10 other companies that together claim 80 percent market share for tires in the United States.

These companies, as well as other tire manufacturers around the world, use a compound called 6PPD in tire production to slow rubber degradation. But tires still wear down, and an increasing body of evidence shows the overwhelming majority of ocean microplastics are from tires. What happens to those particles (which also can cause smog) once they reach the ocean—or even waters upstream of it—is the major concern.

A Bridgestone Grand Touring tire for EVs.
A Bridgestone Grand Touring tire for EVs.

Over time, 6PPD reacts with the environment to form new compounds, one of which is 6PPD-quinone (often abbreviated 6PPD-q). The Environmental Protection Agency says this chemical often surges into waterways in high concentrations during storms, and can kill certain fish after a few hours of exposure. Some of the most prominently affected species are staple seafoods, including salmon and trout.


Numerous varieties of both are protected under the Endangered Species Act, which is the foundation of the plaintiffs' legal argument. They say the continued inclusion of 6PPD in tires violates the act's ban on incidental harm of protected species without federal approval, and has played a role in declining fishery populations. Notably, California completely canceled the 2023 commercial salmon fishing season to conserve dwindling wild stocks. This year could see a second straight cancelation according to Cal Matters.

A coho salmon caught in Washington
A coho salmon caught in Washington. Chris Wilson via Getty Images

On this basis, the fishing groups seek to make tire companies support fish and watersheds if they are to continue using 6PPD. But the tire companies have reportedly reacted by trying to get the suit thrown out of court, asserting they're not liable for 6PPD-q-induced destruction that occurs "years later, in distant locations and following extensive use and degradation of those products."

They also reportedly claim the suit circumvents the EPA, though the EPA itself may be preparing to ban 6PPD outright according to Earthjustice. The organization reports the agency has also been petitioned for a ban by five U.S. states. Their number does not include California, which in July reportedly advised tire manufacturers to seek a safer alternative to 6PPD.

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