Swedes promote "green" winter tyres

Only 10% of Swedish market does not contain environmentally hazardous oils, says action group

A coalition of Swedish local authorities and businesses has urged consumers to buy passenger car winter tyres without high aromatic content oils. Based on a new analytical method, the group has published a list of brands meeting this criterion, amounting to only 10% of the winter tyre market.

The list publicises a long-running campaign by Gothenburg regional authorities to get tyre manufacturers to cut their use of high-aromatic oils, and therefore releases of carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The group estimates that nearly 250,000 tonnes of high-aromatic oils are used by EU car tyre makers annually. About 30-40,000 tonnes of oils per year are lost with rubber particles and can eventually be released to the environment.

Vehicle tyres contain up to 20% oil to plasticise rubber and give it good grip and low rolling resistance. High-aromatic oils are used because only these are compatible with synthetic rubber. Whereas there are currently no low-aromatic oils on the market for summer tyres - the bulk of the car tyre market - winter car tyres can use them because of their different design and usage.

Led by Ulf Duus of the Gothenburg region local authorities' association and Jan Ahlbom of the region's administrative board, the Swedish action group has based its list of low-aromatic oil winter tyres on a new analytical method developed by the Swedish national testing and research institute. This can determine whether tyre oils contain more or less than 3% PAHs. This is the threshold under the 1967 EU directive on classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances for classification as a carcinogen.

Members of the group, including Västra Götalandsregionen - Sweden's second largest employer - and Folksam Insurance Company, have pledged to purchase only winter tyres with aromatic content below this level. Use of winter tyres is a legal obligation in Sweden for several months of the year.

Giuseppe Locati of EU rubber industry association Blic accepted that high-aromatic oils posed environmental and health risks, but stressed that the industry was working to avoid the problem. It had defined environmental and health criteria stricter than the EU cancer classification, and oil companies had been asked to provide substitutes, Professor Locati told ENDS Daily. Two potential substitutes were now being examined, neither of which was yet ready for large-scale marketing.

Follow Up:
Gothenburg region local authorities' association, tel: +46 31 733 2708, and list of winter tyres without toxic oils; Gothenburg region county administrative board, tel: +46 31 60 52 15; Blic, tel: +32 2 218 4940.

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