Bipartisan Bill Calls for National Standard for Engineered Glass Beads
Congressman Tim Holden (D-PA) has joined with his colleague Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA) to introduce legislation to impose a federal standard on manufactured glass beads used for reflective highway markings. The standard would apply to all road construction projects that receive federal funding.
“In 2008, more than 27 million pounds of glass beads were imported from China - the world’s leading exporter of glass beads. A significant number of shipments of glass beads from China were found to contain high levels of both arsenic and lead,” said Congressman Holden. “We believe it is time to act.”
Each year more than 500 million pounds of glass beads are used on U.S. highways to stripe or re-stripe pavement markings. In recent years, imported glass beads used for this purpose have been shown to contain high levels of heavy metals including lead a reproductive toxicant and arsenic a known human carcinogen and poison.
As glass degrades over time from the pounding of traffic, snow plows, trucks and weather, toxic materials can leach out of the glass and run-off into nearby soil and water tables. In addition, the exposure to workers who deal with the application of glass beads that contain high concentrations of heavy metals is an increasing concern.
“Today more than a dozen states have independently imposed standards on their procurement of glass beads for highway use but it is time for a national standard,” said Congressman Shuster. “I am pleased to have been able to work with my colleague Tim Holden on this important legislation that will help safeguard the lives of highway workers and help keep public roads be safe and free of high levels of arsenic and lead.”
“The objective of this legislation is not to halt imports of engineered glass beads, but to make sure beads we use are environmentally friendly and don’t pose a health risk to highway workers,” Shuster added. “This legislation will create a national procurement standard to achieve this goal.”
In response to environmental and health issues, several states have already adopted regulations that require the use of environmentally-friendly, non-toxic glass materials. In particular, California, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming have established procurement standards for the safety of glass beads used in highway markings in their states. Several other states have proposals under review. The U.S. military, led by the Air Force, has set standards for procurement of glass beads, and the European Union, China, Australia, and several Canadian provinces have also set standards limiting heavy metal concentration.