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Sweeney/Buono Measure Aims To Reduce Mercury Contamination From Cars

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Stephen M. Sweeney and Barbara Buono that would require the removal of mercury switches from vehicles before they are scrapped or recycled was unanimously approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

“The mercury from shredded vehicles can leak into local water supplies and cause serious health problems, especially in expectant mothers and their unborn children,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “This measure is a step in the right direction toward making New Jersey a healthier and safer place for its residents.”

The Senators’ measure, S-1292, would require vehicle manufacturers to develop a mercury minimization plan and submit it to the Department of Environmental Protection. The plan would address the removal of mercury switches from vehicles by recycling facilities before they are destroyed. Vehicle manufacturers would also be required to pay $2.25 per switch to defray removal costs.

Mercury switches are contained in the lighting and anti-lock brakes of vehicles. The State Department of Environmental Protection estimates that 1,000 pounds of mercury are melted down or shredded each year. New Jersey and 44 other states have issued warnings for expectant mothers and young children to avoid consumption of fish from mercury contaminated water.

Mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage the development and function of the nervous, reproductive and cardiovascular systems. Similar damage can occur when wildlife is exposed to high levels of mercury.

“Even the smallest concentrations of mercury can have a noticeable impact on local health and environment,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “By requiring that all mercury switches be removed from vehicles before scrapping, we are cutting down on a major source of mercury contamination.”

This measure now heads to the full Senate for approval.

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