Good News: Historic victory for tribes and salmon as EPA will restrict toxic chemical 6PPD in tires

Coho salmon returning from its years at sea to spawn, seen near the Suquamish Tribe's Grovers Creek Hatchery. Credit: K. King

We are excited to share some great news following our article last week about how tires are poisoning us while microplastics contaminate our water. Earthjustice reports that the EPA has just granted a petition submitted by the Yurok, Port Gamble S’Klallam, and Puyallup Tribes to develop regulations that prohibit the use of the chemical 6PPD in tires due to the lethal effects on salmon, steelhead trout and wildlife. The agency agreed to initiate risk management rulemaking under the Toxic Substances Control Act to address the risk from 6PPD  tires.

6PPD is added to virtually every vehicle tire,” according to Earthjustice. When 6PPD reacts with ground-level ozone, it breaks down into 6PPD-q, “the second most toxic chemical to aquatic species ever evaluated. Exposure to 6PPD-q can kill coho salmon within hours, and the chemical is responsible for ‘urban runoff mortality syndrome,’ which kills up to 100% of coho returning to spawn in urban streams.” The Tribes argued that 6PPD in tires poses unreasonable risks to the environment and succeeded in their request for the EPA to regulate the chemical.

Earthjustice reports how the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians adopted a resolution in September supporting the Port Gamble S’Klallam, Puyallup, and Yurok Tribes’ petition to ban 6PPD. The states of WA, OR, VT, RI and CT also sent a letter to the EPA voicing strong support for the petition, noting that “6PPD, along with its highly toxic product 6PPD-q, poses an unreasonable threat to the States’ waters and fish resources, and to the continued existence of Northwest salmon and steelhead runs.”

This is a victory for salmon and all species and people,” said the Puyallup Tribal Council, the Puyallup Tribe’s elected leadership. “6PPD is a major and uniquely lethal threat to the health of salmon in urban streams on our reservation. Banning this chemical from tires will be hugely important in protecting fish. We thank the EPA for taking our concerns seriously. We will always act to protect the fish, the water and our lands.”

“The petition is a huge win for ney-puey (salmon) and the planet,” said Joseph L. James, chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “The Yurok Tribe got involved because we are a fishing people, who understand the cultural and ecological importance of salmon. We could not sit idle while 6PPD kills the fish that sustain us. This lethal toxin has no place in any salmon-bearing watershed. We’re glad the EPA sided with the tribes.”

“This is a significant victory that will help to protect our waterways and keystone aquatic species from this devastating tire chemical,” said Elizabeth Forsyth, senior attorney with Earthjustice’s Biodiversity Defense Program. “Tribal communities have relied on access to healthy salmon populations since time immemorial, and EPA’s grant of the petition is the first important step to addressing this existential threat to the species. We are thrilled that the EPA has recognized that 6PPD poses an unreasonable risk to the environment and that the agency must now regulate it.”

Earthjustice submitted the petition on behalf of the Yurok, Port Gamble S’Klallam and Puyallup Tribes.

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