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Mercury Switches in Automobiles and Trucks

picture of a automobile switch

Many motor vehicles manufactured prior to model year 2003 have switches that contain mercury. These switches are found in hood and trunk convenience lighting and in anti-lock brake systems (ABS). Mercury may also be found in certain types of high-intensity discharge headlights and some sensors.

The mercury in these components can be released into the environment when a vehicle is crushed, shredded, or during the steel melting process. The airborne mercury is deposited on land and water where it eventually contaminates our environment and accumulates in people and wildlife. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin which slows fetal and child development and impairs brain function. Vehicle dismantlers, scrap steel recyclers and vehicle crushers can help keep mercury out of our environment by ensuring mercury-containing equipment is properly managed and removed prior to vehicles being crushed, shredded, or sent for steel recycling. New York State requires the removal of this mercury-containing equipment.

In an effort to reduce mercury in the environment, the End of Life Vehicle Solutions (ELVS) was created by the automobile industry to promote mercury recycling, education, outreach, and the proper management of mercury- containing equipment. In August 2006, the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program (NVMSRP) was formed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), the automobile industry, and environmental organizations to aid in the collection of mercury automotive switches. In support of the NVMSRP, ELVS provides vehicle dismantlers with free collection buckets and free services to manage these automotive switches once they are removed from vehicles. These services cover all transportation and final disposal costs of any collected switches.

If you are a vehicle dismantler, scrap steel recycler, or vehicle crusher and wish to participate in the NVMSRP, you must register with ELVS. You may register by going online at or by calling 877-225-ELVS (3587). The ELVS website also offers information relating to the location of mercury switches in various vehicle models, tips on removing and recycling switches and ABS modules, State laws requiring the removal of switches, and current national collection data.

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