WASHINGTON -- Automakers will take part in a national program that will collect from dismantled vehicles all electrical switches that contain mercury.
Car companies will contribute half of the required $4 million for the first three years of the program, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said Wednesday.
Fred Webber, president of the alliance, said in a statement that the industry supports a "comprehensive strategy" for reducing mercury in consumer products. Mercury is a poison that damages body organs and systems.
Automakers stopped using mercury in switches about 10 years ago. Those switches mainly were for lights under hoods and in trunks.
An estimated 35 million switches with mercury are in vehicles that remain in use.
Several state laws make automakers responsible for ensuring that when old vehicles are crushed or shredded, the switches are collected, and the mercury is properly disposed of or recycled.
Alliance spokesman Charles Territo confirmed that the industry is agreeing to the national program at least in part to prevent a further patchwork of state requirements.
The national program grew out of negotiations that also involved the EPA, vehicle dismantlers and recyclers, environmental groups, states and the steel industry.
The EPA is considering rules that would limit mercury emissions from steel plants that use recycled metal from old vehicles.
The steel industry is providing the other half of the initial $4 million for the mercury collection program. Some of those funds will pay fees for switches recovered by dismantlers.
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