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E-M:/ Automotive Mercury Switches to be Replaced

Title: Automotive Mercury Switches to be Replaced

Jeff Gearhart, Ecology Center, 734 663-2400 ext. 117
Jeff Krcmarik, Washtenaw County Division of Public Works 222-6865


(27 November 2001 -- Ann Arbor)  The Ecology Center and Washtenaw County Department of Environment and Infrastructure Services are co-sponsoring a free automotive mercury switch replacement to the public on Saturday, December 1st. The event will take place from 9 am to 5 pm at the parking lot next to the Home Toxics Reduction Program at the County Service Center on 2201 Hogback Road. Mercury switches, which contain approximately 1 gram of mercury, will be replaced with non-toxic ball-bearing switches.  Replacement will take about 10 minutes.

Mercury switches were used until recently in hood and trunk convenience lighting fixtures, and are the most common source of mercury in cars.  Nationally, these switches contribute to the estimated 150 tons of mercury in vehicles on the road today.  An estimated 10,000 pounds of mercury are on the road in Michigan, 253 pounds of which are in Washtenaw County.  Much of this mercury will be released into the environment when the vehicles are scrapped, unless auto manufacturers offer a safe and effective program to collect it. 

Mercury is a highly toxic substance that can cause severe nervous system problems in humans and wildlife.  According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, over 375,000 children born in the U.S. each year are at risk for neurodevelopmental problems, from mild learning disabilities to mental retardation, due to mercury exposure in the womb.  Despite the extreme danger, the U.S. auto industry has done little to recover the mercury they are responsible for putting on the road. 

The Ecology Center, the Clean Car Campaign and the Partnership for Mercury-Free Vehicles have asked automakers to cooperate in implementing a 5 point action plan which includes replacing mercury switches at their dealerships.  To date automakers have refused to implement any part of the action plan. 

Most vehicles made prior to 1998 have hood or truck convenience lights with mercury switches.  Mercury switch information for later models, additional details on how the replacement will be performed, directions to the event and additional background material on mercury in vehicles are available at the Ecology Center web site, http://www.ecocenter.org.

Gregory Button, Ph.D.
Communications Director
The Ecology Center
117 N. Division
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 761-3186 x 113
(734) 663-2414 (fax)