A brief history
The issue of HA oils in tyres was first raised in a report
from the Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate called 'Nya hjulspår'
(Ahlbom, Duus, 1994. KEMI report 6/94). The report received
significant attention from the international tyre industry.
In a hearing at the Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate in 1995,
BLIC (the European Association of the Rubber Industry) claimed
that the problem was not as great as was presented in the
report. They also claimed that it was technically very difficult
to replace HA oils and that the safety performance of tyres
could be at stake. The Inspectorate maintained, however, that
HA oils should be phased out and BLIC began work to investigate
Within 6 months, the first retreaded HA oil-free tyres were
presented by Swedish retreaders - with Anderstorps Gummiindustrier
(AGI) leading the way. AGI's winter tyres received very good
results in technical tests undertaken by the Swedish motor
magazine "Teknikens Värld".
The retreading industry has now undergone a comprehensive
transformation and nowadays almost all retreaded tyres sold
in Sweden are free from HA oils in the treads. The Swedish
retreading industry is internationally respected and the proportion
of total tyre sales that are retreads is the highest in the
world. A number of brands of retreaded summer tyres have now
also received good test results - even with regards to wet
weather grip. Some brands have even been awarded the Nordic
In 1997, the Swedish Gislaved tyre plant (within the Continental
Group) presented the first new winter tyres without HA oils
in the tread. In 1998, the tyres were hailed as 'tyre of the
year' by the motor magazine "Teknikens Värld".
This was 'despite' them being free from HA oils. The judgement
resulted in a breakthrough for HA oil-free winter tyres and
several of the major international manufacturers felt forced
to follow the trend.
At the same time, BLIC announced the European rubber industry's
aim to try to replace HA oils in tyres wherever alternative
resources were available. However, they did point out difficulties
with regards to wet weather grip for summer tyres amongst
One issue was that it was not possible to check whether a
tyre contained HA oils or not. The only source of information
for purchasers was the manufacturers' information. The Swedish
National Testing and Research Institute, who have great experience
in analysis of polyaromatics in oils, developed a method for
testing polyaromatic compounds in vulcanised rubber.
In autumn 2000, Grön Kemi and the Swedish insurance
company Folksam compiled the first Swedish list of winter
tyres without HA oils. Spot checks on a large number of winter
tyres showed that many of the leading manufacturers had tyres
on the market that were free from HA oils. In particular,
the majority of newly launched models were free from these
Updates to the tyre list over the last years show that the
majority of winter tyres on the Swedish market are free from
HA oils in the treads (now approximately 90%). Even products
from major manufacturers in Japan and Korea are on the list.
The main users of the list have been large purchasers of tyres;
for example Västra Götalandsregionen, Folksam and
many local authorities.
Approximately half of the tyres purchased in Sweden are for
trucks and buses. Fortunately, the problem with HA oils is
not as great for these vehicles as for cars. The concentrations
of HA oils are lower than in car tyres and are easier to replace
due to a slightly different rubber blend. The issue of replacing
HA oils has been kept high on the agenda for the last few
years by the truck industry, mainly driven by a company closely
linked to the haulage branch called TRB Miljö. Nowadays
HA oils have been replaced in a large proportion of these
Once the tyre plant in Gislaved started work on replacing
the oils in winter tyres in 1997, the production process was
soon modified so that the entire factory was free from HA
oils - not just in the tyre tread, and even in summer tyres.
Unfortunately, the German owners of the plant, Continental,
made the decision in 2002 to close this plant despite it being
the most advanced plant in the world regarding health- and
environmentally enhanced tyres.
Early in 2002, Nokian Tyres in Finland presented a new summer
tyre manufactured without any HA oils in the tread. The company's
aim is to have all HA oils out of production by the end of
The Grön Kemi project has also produced an updated list
of summer tyres without HA oils in the tread (once again in
collaboration with Folksam). Spot checks have been used to
confirm that retreaded summer tyres, Nokians new tyre model
and the remaining tyres produced at the Gislaved plant are
free from HA oils in the tread.
At this stage there are both winter and summer tyres - free
from HA oil - that has been appointed "test winners"
in the different Swedish motor magazines. The technical features
in these cases, like wet grip for example, now equal or outnumber
the traditional tyres.
This summer tyre list, including information on Nokians efforts,
the closure of the Gislaved plant and summarising the situation
regarding summer tyres, lead to significant interest from
the mass media. The Swedish Minister of Environment, Lena
Sommestad, became aware of the problem and commissioned the
Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate to investigate what conditions
would be necessary for a Swedish ban on the use of HA oils
in car tyres.
Sweden and Germany have also initiated the issue of HA oils
in tyres to the EU Commission. A proposal for a ban on HA
oils in tyres put on the market in the whole European Union
is now put forward by the Commission. Hopefully this proposal
will reach the European Parliament during the spring 2005.
The 9th of June the EU Parliament decided to ban all use
of the carcinogenic and toxic HA-oil in tyres. The ban will
come into force from the 1st of January 2010 and comprises
all tyres sold within the EU.