Green Buckeye RN

NYT: GM Agrees To Recycle Mercury Switches, For Now
November 17, 2009, 10:41 am
Filed under: News, Spotlight on... Mercury

Mercury, the only metal element that is liquid at standard room temperature, is notoriously hard to handle — in more ways than one. Until 2003, automakers used highly toxic mercury in switches that controlled trunk and under-hood lights, as well as antilock brake systems. Since then, carmakers have switched to benign alternatives, but an estimated 38 million mercury switches still remain in cars.

As long as the switches remain in place, they’re unlikely to present a health danger, but when cars are crushed at the end of their life, the mercury in the switches can be released. The Environmental Protection Agency says, “Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system of people of all ages.”

The auto industry created the nonprofit End of Life Solutions Corporation (E.L.V.S., popularly known as “Elvis”). Recycling the mercury in switches is a major element in the organization’s portfolio. In February, the nonprofit announced it had recycled its two-millionth mercury switch.

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