The Wicked Switch
Automakers Rapped for Pollution From Mercury Switches
With recent revelations that just about all freshwater fish in the U.S. are contaminated with mercury, concern over the heavy-metal pollutant has regulators carefully examining every source. The fourth largest, as it happens, is automobiles, specifically the mercury switches in auto lights and brakes. Last year a record 18,000 pounds of mercury pollution were traceable to scrapped cars, according to the Clean Car Campaign. Since the beginning of 2003, automakers no longer use mercury to make the switches, but controversy remains over who should be responsible for proper disposal of existing switches. A handful of states are considering a per-vehicle fee to finance disposal programs. Enviros say automakers should pay for safe removal of switches from old cars; automakers say scrap yards should deal with the problem; scrap yards say they don’t have the capacity. Argue. Pollute. Poison. Repeat.