Mercury is a cross-media pollutant that's difficult to address due to the cumulative impacts of various discharges, the high number of diffuse low-level sources, and transport from distant sources that contribute to global and local atmospheric pools.
Air pollution sources cause direct deposition to land, lakes and rivers, where bacteria change the mercury to a very mobile and easily ingestible form called methylmercury. It's this form that allows mercury to bioaccumulate through the food chain, thus having its largest health effect on humans.
Mercury switches traditionally have been used in automobiles and appliances because of their reliability. The switches are mainly used to turn on lights in glove boxes, trunk lids, engine hoods and chest freezer lids. Automobiles and appliances are recycled through scrap handlers, iron foundries and the Rocky Mountain Steel Mill in Pueblo. If the mercury switch isn't removed before shredding, the mercury will be released to the environment through the ensuing processes.
After successfully implementing an in-state mercury switch collection program from 2004 through 2006, Colorado joined the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program in 2007. The national program was initiated in 2006 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), several states, members of the auto and steel industries, vehicle dismantlers, vehicle shredders and the environmental community signed a shared-responsibility agreement to collect and recycle mercury switches from end-of-life vehicles.
To implement this agreement, the auto industry created the End of Life Vehicle Solutions (ELVS) Corp. to provide education, collection and recycling of automotive mercury switches. To join, contact the corporation:
End of Life Vehicle Solutions
P.O. Box 3282
Farmington Hills, MI 48333-3282
877-225-3587 or 248-788-6656
- Colorado's Mercury Switch Removal Program 2004-2007.
- Mercury switch removal presentation at Western States Project Conference, October 2006.
- Automotive salvage yard waste management practices: Learn more about other waste management issues associated with automotive scrap yards in this guidance document.