Sixty Alberta auto recyclers voluntarily collected and safely disposed of more than 34 kilograms of highly toxic mercury from 40,298 vehicle lighting switches this past summer as part of the Clean Air Foundation’s Switch Out program.
One single gram of mercury can pollute a 20-acre lake so that the fish cannot be consumed for an entire year. “Without the proper management of these switches, mercury is released to the environment, finding its way into the food chain and into our bodies,” said Fatima Dharsee, manager of Switch Out. “The next step is to move the program Canada-wide, and curb this release of mercury to the environment.”
Switch Out currently has programs in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario and has plans under way for programs in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Switch Out is designed to prevent of mercury found in vehicle lighting switches from reaching the environment. It provides training, free transportation and disposal, making it easy for auto recyclers to dispose of mercury safely.
European and Asian-made vehicle manufacturers discontinued the use of mercury switches in 1996, while North American manufacturers did so in 2003. Mercury is used to control anti-lock braking systems and to light LCD display screens and HID lamps, but more than 95 per cent of the mercury found in vehicles is found in the switches in hood and trunk lighting systems. When these vehicles are disposed of, the mercury enters the waste stream. Each switch contains 0.7 to 1g of mercury and cars contain up to two switches powering lighting.
Clean Air Foundation launched Switch Out Alberta in partnership with Environment Canada, Alberta Environment, Alberta EcoTrust, the Recycling Council of Alberta and the Alberta Automotive Recyclers and Dismantlers Association.
For further information, contact Fatima Dharsee, Switch Out Program Manager, Clean Air Foundation, 416-922-9038 ext. 48 or firstname.lastname@example.org