March 13, 2006

Tentative U.S. agreement reached on auto mercury switch recovery program

Washington, D.C. – Representatives from the automobile and auto recycling industries, the environmental community, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. states have reached a tentative agreement on elements of a national auto mercury switch recovery program. The program is intended to recover up to 72,574 kg (160,000 lbs) of mercury switches from scrapped automobiles. Most of the mercury ends up in the air when auto scrap is melted in steel recycling plants.

Mercury switches were used in pre-2003 vehicles as tilt sensors for convenience lights (such as hood lights) and tow-away alarm sensors. These switches represent the largest manufacturing source of mercury, surpassed only by coal-fired power plants and municipal incinerators. The agreement, once finalized, would provide a major commitment of resources from automakers, steel companies, auto recyclers and government agencies to aggressively address the problem.

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