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ADEQ Director Owens
Launches Effort

ADEQ Director Owens Launches Effort to Reduce Mercury Releases from Scrap Vehicles.

Cortland Coleman,

ADEQ Director of Communications: 602.771.2215

PHOENIX (January 22, 2007) –rizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Director Steve Owens today launched a state effort aimed at persuading more than 200 Arizona vehicle recyclers to participate in a free, voluntary program to reclaim the toxic metal mercury from vehicles that are scrapped from vehicle recyclers.

ADEQ is asking vehicle recyclers in Arizona to join the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program (NVMSRP), formed last year by representatives of dismantlers, automotive steel and scrap industries, environmental groups, a national association of state government environmental agency officials and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Arizona is one of the first states to join the program.

“Mercury is an extremely toxic substance, and this program will help prevent toxic mercury from contaminating our air and water,” Owens said. “This program is a free, easy way for auto recyclers to help protect our children and families from exposure to toxic mercury, as well as protect our precious natural resources from contamination.”

When vehicles are crushed and shredded for recycling, the mercury in vehicles’ lighting switches and antilock braking systems (ABS) may be released into the environment. Mercury is a liquid metal that accumulates in fatty tissue and muscle and has been linked to a variety of health effects, including toxicity to the brain and nervous system. Exposure to mercury at elevated concentrations can cause learning disabilities and impair motor function in children.

Each year 14 million tons of steel are recycled, the equivalent of 13.5 million new vehicles. Mercury switches in cars account for as much as 11 tons of mercury pollution each year. The program seeks to cut 75 million tons of mercury emissions over the next 15 years.

The national program established a $4 million fund to pay recyclers for their efforts on a first-come, first-served basis. Recyclers will receive $1 per mercury light switch or assembly received, and $3 per ABS module received. Recyclers do not need to remove the switches from the assemblies.

NVMSRP estimates that 67 million switches are available for recovery nationwide. As many as 3.6 million cars in Arizona may be eligible for the program.

Owens said that reducing release of toxic mercury has been a priority for ADEQ. In November ADEQ adopted rules to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants in Arizona by 90 percent over the next seven years. Over the past several years ADEQ also has issued fish consumption advisories for 12 lakes throughout the state, because of high levels of mercury found in certain fish in those lakes.

News media interested in this story or any issue regarding ADEQ should contact the ADEQ Office of Communications at 602.771.2215.


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