August 15, 2006

EPA announces national mercury switch program

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program, designed to remove mercury hood light switches from scrap vehicles before they are recycled. The agency says it will help cut mercury air emissions by up to 75 tons over the next 15 years.

The switches, which activate the underhood light when the hood is opened, were discontinued by the U.S. automobile industry in 2002, but an estimated 67.5 million of them are still in use in older vehicles and available for recovery. Each year, the steel industry recycles more than 14 million tons of steel from scrap vehicles.

Under the program, automobile dismantlers must remove the switches prior to the vehicles being flattened and shredded; a financial incentive is included for those who remove them. The program is the result of a two-year collaborative effort involving the EPA and a number of organizations, including the Steel Manufacturers Association, the Automotive Recyclers Association and representatives of the Environmental Council of the States.

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