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Sweeney/Buono Measure To Reduce Mercury Emissions Receives Final Legislative Approval

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 destroyed received final legislative approval today in the Senate by a vote of 36-0.

“An estimated 1,000 pounds of mercury are disposed of each year,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “Much of the mercury seeps into the ground, contaminating the State’s water and poisoning sea life. Even minimal exposure to mercury is harmful, especially for expectant mothers and small children. This measure is working to protect the environment for both current and future generations.”

The Senators’ measure, S-1292, would order vehicle manufacturers to develop a mercury minimization plan to submit to the Department of Environmental Protection. The plan would address the removal of mercury switches from vehicles by recycling facilities before they are destroyed. Auto manufacturers would be charged $2.25 per vehicle to help defray removal costs.

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 a neurotoxin, meaning that exposure can damage the development and function of the nervous, cardiovascular and reproductive systems.

“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. “If there is a way to keep more mercury from getting into the groundwater, we must aggressively pursue it. By requiring the removal of mercury switches from scrapped vehicles, we are cutting down on a major source of mercury contamination.”

This measure was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on February 7.

It now heads to the Governor’s desk, where his signature would make it State law.

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