Braking copper.

Coho salmon swimming through a stream.

Coho swim to their spawning grounds in a N. Coast stream. Photo by Beth Lambert, OSU.

If like most Americans, you drive a car, then copper is dead-stop important.  It keeps your brakes from squealing and overheating.  Every time you tap your brakes or come to a (non-) screeching halt, you can thank copper for making the stop.

But if you’re fish–particularly a salmon or trout–copper is a deadly additive to your water.  Copper suppresses your ability to smell and react to predators, or navigate your natal streams to spawning grounds.

As millions of drivers start, slow and stop along roadways, copper dust from each stop accumulates on the road surface. When the rains come, the copper then is flushed into ditches, storm sewers or directly into adjacent waterbodies. All of that copper is leading to some serious sensory problems for salmon fisheries.  Copper is one of the most problematic pollutants in stormwater runoff.

At least four states (RI, WA, NY, now CA)  have attempted or are attempting to legislatively put the brakes on copper in brake pads by asking manufacturers to reduce copper.  California is next to join this effort.  Check out what they’re doing at


2 thoughts on “Braking copper.

  1. It’s so difficult to estimate our true affect on the environment we live in. Whether it’s copper now or lead back in the day, we continue to find new ways that we hurt the world in which we live.

    Makes the job of the ecologist, conservationist, biologist even more important.

  2. Copper, lead, and zinc are all major problems these days when it comes to stormwater. Our company makes a filtration media called MetalZorb that removes dissolved heavy metal from stormwater, wastewater, and industrial process water. It is highly effective at removing metal contamination and is becoming a key component for many companies to meet their NPDES benchmarks beyond the copper found in automotive parts. Learn more about our filtration media at

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