Lead weights used to balance vehicle wheels will be phased out in California by the end of 2009, in accordance with a court settlement approved Wednesday. The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by the Center for Environmental Health in May against Chrysler and the three biggest U.S. makers of lead wheel weights. The group says 500,000 pounds of lead is released annually into California’s environment from the weights after they fall off cars, get ground down, and make their way into groundwater and drinking supplies. “Wheel weights have been identified as the largest new route of lead releases into the environment,” said Center Director Michael Green. “By moving the industry away from leaded wheel weights, we are helping to keep the lead out of our kids’ drinking water.” While lead’s a cheap and heavy metal, its health risks are many; steel or zinc alloy will be used as a substitute. Enviro groups hope other states will follow suit. The European Union banned lead wheel weights in 2005.