Nationwide ‘Switch-The-Switch’ Program Calls On Automakers To Take Responsibility For Toxic Mercury In Vehicles

The Clean Car Campaign has joined forces with automotive dealerships, state

and city officials, and environmental organizations across the nation today to

kick off a “Switch-the-Switch” event to help protect the public and the

environment from toxic mercury. Participating automotive dealerships will

replace convenience lighting mercury switches with mercury-free alternatives

in customer vehicles for free during the event, and state and city officials will

replace mercury switches in government vehicle fleets.

The Clean Car Campaign today also called on auto manufacturers to establish a

national program to recover mercury in vehicles. “The Clean Car Campaign

commends the leadership of the dealers and fleet managers participating in this

week’s event; we now need the industry as a whole to step up to the plate and

offer this important service to help protect our environment and our health,” said

Dean Menke of Environmental Defense, a member of the Clean Car


Mercury is a highly toxic substance that can cause severe nervous system

problems in humans and wildlife. Mercury switches used until recently in hood

and trunk convenience lighting are the most common source of mercury in cars.

These switches contribute to the estimated 200 tons of mercury in vehicles on

the road today. Much of this mercury will be released to the environment when

the vehicles are scrapped, unless auto manufacturers offer a safe and effective

program to collect this toxic substance.

“It’s time for auto manufacturers to take responsibility for the tons of mercury in

vehicles now on the road,” said Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project,

a Clean Car Campaign member.

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 neurodevelopment problems, from

mild learning disabilities to mental retardation, because of exposure to mercury

in the womb. Despite the extreme danger, the U.S. auto industry continues to

routinely use mercury in cars, even though practical alternatives are widely


“Switch-the-Switch” events are taking place at dealerships and government

fleets in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota,

New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and


The Clean Car Campaign is working to keep the mercury collected from the

switches from being resold and placed into new products through the donated

services of Comus, Int. and Bethlehem Apparatus to receive, collect and store

the mercury on an interim basis of at least one year.

The Clean Car Campaign is a coalition of national and regional environmental

organizations. It continues to challenge automakers to meet the Clean Car

Standard and hold them accountable for their vehicle design and manufacturing

decisions. For more information on the Campaign, the “Switch-the-Switch”

events and the issue of automotive mercury, visit their website at

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