Toxic Tire Chemical That Kills Salmon Comes Under Federal Scrutiny

A photo of tires on a rack outside an auto shop.
A photo of tires on a rack outside an auto shop.

The chemical is used to preserve tires and prevent them from cracking.

A chemical compound found in many car tires is coming under scrutiny after west coast tribes claimed it is killing salmon populations across America. Federal regulators will launch a probe into a preservative used in most car tires as it can be toxic to many species of fish when rainwater washes it into rivers and streams.

Many tires sold across America contain a compound called 6PPD, which is a rubber preservative that helps prevent tires from cracking and degrading too quickly. However, the compound reacts with the air in our atmosphere to create a toxic substance that is threatening the safety of streams and rivers across America.


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The EPA’s decision to review the use of 6PPD in tires is the first step in the long process that could result in it being banned from tires sold across America. But despite the process for its banning being a long one, the AP reports that tire manufacturers are already “looking for an alternative that still meets federal safety requirements.”

A photo of a sign with information about Coho Salmon populations.
A photo of a sign with information about Coho Salmon populations.

Chemicals released by the tires are harming coho salmon populations.

While the chemical is used in many different rubber products, including shoes and playground equipment, its use in car tires is the most damaging to wildlife. That’s because as a car drives along a road, tiny particles of rubber are kicked off as the tire rubs against the tarmac.

The 6PPD that’s found in these particulates can then break down into a toxic compound called 6PPD-quinone, which is water soluble so can be washed into rivers and streams when rain falls. Once in the waterways, 6PPD-quinone can kill coho salmon “in hours,” according to the west coast tribes.

But the tribes aren’t the first people to alert lawmakers to the dangers of this compound to fish stocks in America. In 2020, scientists in Washington state published a paper investigating the impact of tire wear on American fish populations. They found that 6PPD-quinone could kill come fish species in as little as 70 minutes.

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