WASHINGTON -- Automakers will take part in a national program that will collect all electrical switches that contain mercury from dismantled vehicles.
Car companies will contribute half of the required $4 million for the first three years of the program, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said last week.
Fred Webber, alliance president, 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 disposed of properly or recycled.
Alliance spokesman Charles Territo said the industry will participate in the national program to help prevent a further patchwork of state mandates. The program grew out of talks 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 metal recycled from old vehicles.
The steel industry is providing the other half of the initial $4 million for the mercury collection program. Some of that money will pay dismantlers' fees for recovering switches.
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