TRENTON – Automobiles headed to the scrap heap will now have to have all mercury switches removed before being destroyed under legislation sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono and signed into law by Governor Richard Codey today.
“Scrapped cars are estimated to contribute 1,000 pounds of mercury into the environment each year,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “The overwhelming majority of that mercury seeps into the ground, contaminating local ground water and adding to already high levels of mercury in sea life. Even minimal exposure to mercury poses a danger to people and animals, particularly expectant mothers and small children. With this legislation, we will prevent a significant amount of mercury from entering the environment each year.”
The new law, previously bill S-1292, will order vehicle manufacturers to develop a mercury minimization plan to submit to the Department of Environmental Protection. The plan will address the removal of mercury switches from vehicles by recycling facilities before they are destroyed. Auto manufacturers will be charged $2.25 per vehicle to help defray removal costs.
“We know of the harmful effects that even the smallest concentrations of mercury can have on New Jersey’s environment and the health of our residents,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “It is our obligation to make sure that every effort is made to keep more of this toxin out of the environment. Today we have taken another critical step in meeting that responsibility and protecting the welfare of the state’s most vulnerable residents.”
Mercury switches can be found in the lighting and anti-lock brakes of vehicles. New Jersey is one of 45 states that have issued warnings for expectant mothers and young children to avoid eating fish from mercury contaminated water. Mercury is classified as a neurotoxin, exposure to which can damage the development and function of the nervous, cardiovascular and reproductive systems.