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Re: E-M:/ Mercury study on auto junk yard mercury removal

Title: Re: E-M:/ Mercury study on auto junk yard mercury remo
The DEQ press release didn't mention:

.......that 2% of the mercury containing switches vehicle were highly corroded(the mercury - 0.8 grams - is contained in a small metal capsule).  That's over 54,000 switches and vehicles (or about 95 lbs of mercury) in salvage yards and on the road in the State of Michigan which could potentially mercury directly to the environment.

......that there are over 2 1/2 tons of mercury on the road in vehicles in Michigan.  Hundreds of pounds are processed with scrap vehicle each year and released to the environment.

.....that the auto industries response to date has been to refuse to assume any responsibility for the problem.  They've spent lots of money of lawsuits, lobbyist and studies, but we still don't have a single comprehensive program in any state in the US to recover this mercury.

.....that every other trade association representing industries which deal with scrap vehicles and steel recycling including the Automotive Recyclers Association, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc., the Steel Manufacturers Association and the Steel Recycling Institute have joined environmentalists in calling for states to adopt model legislation which requires automakers to assume responsibility for the mercury they put in vehicles.  Model legislation at: http://www.cleancarcampaign.org/partnership.shtml

Our statement is below.

Jeff Gearhart

Michigan Automotive Mercury Switch Study Released:
Environmentalists Call for States To Enact Legislation
Requiring Automakers To Take Responsibility for Mercury

December 19, 2002

The Michigan DEQ has released the results of a 3-month study of how to recover automotive switches which contain mercury from end-of-life vehicles.  Automakers have installed mercury-containing convenience lighting and anti-lock braking (ABS) switches in vehicles over the past few decades.  The study provides a number of valuable findings, including confirmation of the magnitude of the auto mercury problem and the need for quick action to address it. The study results confirm that nearly 5,000 lbs. of mercury are contained in vehicles on Michigan's roads and that an estimated 239 pounds of mercury are in convenience lighting switches in scrapped vehicles each year.  Additional amounts of mercury are also present in anti-lock breaking switches and HID head lamps.

The State of Michigan and other states should adopt legislation to require the removal of mercury switches in all motor vehicles before they are retired, and automakers should provide funding to cover the expenses of auto dismantlers and other parties who remove them.  The Partnership for Mercury-Free Vehicles, a broad coalition of vehicle recycling organizations and environmental organizations, has developed model legislation that states should now follow.  The State of Maine adopted similar legislation earlier this year, taking an important step forward in eliminating this key source of mercury into the environment.  More information about the partnership is available at: http://www.cleancarcampaign.org/partnership.shtml

Some key findings that the Michigan study confirm include the following:

Mercury automobile switches are one of Michigan's leading sources of mercury into the environment. Up to 239 pounds of mercury per year are being released to Michigan's land, air and water. 
More than one out of every two vehicles contains a mercury switch; that's 2.7 million vehicles in Michigan that contain mercury, for a total of 4,780 pounds of mercury.
Up to 5% of switches are significantly corroded and potentially leaking mercury.
The study's finding of an average .54 switches per vehicle would be even higher if it had included a more representative sample of older vehicles, which generally have more switches per vehicle. 
While switches can be removed on average in 1 to 2 minutes per switch, this is an added cost that auto dismantlers and recyclers are not currently compensated for.  Additional management, paperwork, transportation and recycling steps add further costs to the auto recycler.  Providing a mechanism to compensate auto recyclers for these added burdens is a critical part of solving the auto mercury problem.

For more information contact:
Charles Griffith or Jeff Gearhart of the Ecology Center at (734) 663-2400.

http://www.ecocenter.org                http://www.cleancarcampaign.org

At 11:29 AM -0500 12/19/02, Alex J. Sagady & Associates wrote:
Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

Subject:      New DEQ Press Release - December 19, 2002

December 19, 2002

Contact:  Patricia Spitzley
                (517) 241-7397

Study Participants Issue Michigan Mercury Switch Study

The participants in the Michigan Mercury Switch Study released a report
today that investigates the removal of mercury convenience lighting
switch assemblies in "end-of-life" vehicles.

The report is a result of a study that evaluated the technical,
logistical, and procedural factors associated with the removal of these
switches and their subsequent management.  The study was conducted as a
joint effort that included the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality; the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Schram Auto Parts, a
Michigan-based automotive recycler; and Sustainable Research Group, a
consultant.  A larger steering group that provided overall guidance to
the study included representatives from DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General
Motors, Toyota, and the Ecology Center. In addition, the Kalamazoo
County Household Hazardous Waste program provided assistance in the
removal and recycling of the mercury pellets.

Convenience lighting was chosen for evaluation because it represents
the largest portion (greater than 85 percent) of the mercury found in
vehicles.  Convenience light switches are located either under the hood
to illuminate the engine compartment or in the trunk to illuminate the
cargo storage area.  Each switch assembly contains approximately 0.8
grams of mercury in a pellet (switch), which is normally constructed out
of steel.   While the use of mercury in new vehicles has been
substantially reduced, the existing mercury  in  "end-of-life" vehicles
could  be released into the environment if mercury convenience light
switches are not removed before the processed vehicle becomes feedstock
for new steel.  If released to the environment mercury emissions
eventually deposit on land and water where the mercury can be converted
into methylmercury, a known neurotoxin, that bioaccumulates through the
food chain.

The three-month study between the auto industry, dismantling industry,
and the MDEQ gathered information at ten Michigan automotive recycling
locations; recording the year, make, and model of vehicles entering
recycling facilities; whether or not they had mercury switches and, if
so, then documented switch assembly and mercury pellet removal methods
and times. The study also examined the barriers and challenges to
removing mercury switches. Overall, data was collected from 1,474
vehicles manufactured between 1971 and 2003.  Forty-four percent of
vehicles were found to have at least one switch present in either the
hood or trunk.  This equates to 0.54 switches per vehicle.  Of the
pellets that were removed, 98 percent contained mercury. It took an
average of 51 seconds to remove the switch assemblies, and an additional
average of 44 seconds to remove the mercury pellet from the assembly.

The switch study results are expected to be the basis for developing
state and local programs to remove mercury switches from "end-of-life"
scrapped vehicles.  MDEQ plans to use the study to engage the various
stakeholders in a dialogue on how to best remove mercury found in
Michigan vehicles.  The study did not include anti-lock brake system
switches, nor did it examine in-service mercury switch removal.

The complete report can be viewed or downloaded from the MDEQ home page
at: http://www.michigan.gov/deq.  Questions about the report should be
directed to Ms. Marcia Horan at 517-373-9122, or Mr. Steve Kratzer at


Alex J. Sagady & Associates  http://my.voyager.net/~ajs/sagady.pdf

Environmental Enforcement, Technical Review, Public Policy and
Communications on Air, Water and Waste/Community Environmental Protection

PO Box 39,  East Lansing, MI  48826-0039
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com

ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at

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Jeff Gearhart
Ecology Center
117 N. Division
Ann Arbor, MI  48104
(734)663-2400 x117
(734)663-2414 fx.