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Industry-NGO Partnership Calls on Ford to Remove Mercury Switches from Recalled Vehicles

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Other Domestic Automakers Should Also Take Responsibility
September 15, 2005
For Immediate Release Inside the 3.8 million vehicles that Ford is recalling for defective cruise control switches are approximately 2.5 million mercury switches that pose another threat to the public. These switches combined contain as much as 6,500 pounds of mercury, which is as much mercury as the top five emitting coal-fired power plants emit in one year. Mercury switches — used for convenience lighting and anti-lock braking functions — are the nation’s largest manufacturing source of toxic mercury. If not removed from vehicles prior to the steel recycling process, the mercury enters the environment and threatens public health. The following statements may be attributed to the Partnership for Mercury-Free Vehicles: “Ford can fix two dangerous problems at once by removing the toxic mercury switches that are contained in many of these vehicles. The recalled vehicles are responsible for the majority of Ford’s use of mercury switches during the years covered by the recall.” “Removing mercury switches would allow Ford to take the lead in preventing mercury emissions from their vehicles. All domestic automakers ought to take responsibility and remove these toxic switches and replace them with mercury-free alternatives when they have vehicles in for repair.” “Domestic automakers have resisted efforts by states to make them responsible for the mercury switches. They have contended that the switches take only 48 seconds to remove and that dismantlers ought to be responsible to do it without compensation. If that is the case, we encourage Ford to take an extra minute to remove the mercury switches and help eliminate this toxic substance from our environment.” “The domestic auto industry used an estimated 197 tons of mercury in vehicle switches in the U.S. over the past 30 years, and continued to use mercury switches for many years after promising to change to mercury-free alternatives and well after they installed the mercury-free alternatives in their vehicles sold in Europe. Using mercury switches saved the automakers only pennies per car.” The Partnership for Mercury-Free Vehicles, a unique coalition of environmental organizations and the entire chain of automotive recycling industries - - including Environmental Defense, the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries, the Michigan-based Ecology Center, the Steel Recycling Institute, the Automotive Recyclers Association and the Steel Manufacturers Association - - was formed in 2001 to find solutions to the problem of mercury in vehicles. Maine, Arkansas, New Jersey and Rhode Island have passed laws mandating automaker responsibility for ensuring that switches are removed. Many other states are considering similar legislation. For additional information, see http://www.cleancarcampaign.org/mercury.shtml. For more information, contact: Chuck Carr, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, 202-662-8517 George Eliades, Automotive Recyclers Association, 703-385-1001 Jeff Gearhart, Ecology Center, 734-663-2400 x117 Bill Heenan, Steel Recycling Institute, 412-922-2772 Karen Thomas, Environmental Defense, 413-587-2270 Eric Stuart, Steel Manufacturing Association, 202-296-1515 Vehicles involved in the recall include: 1994-2002 Ford F-150 1997-2002 Ford Expedition 1998-2002 Lincoln Navigator 1994-1996 Ford Bronco