Managing Mercury Switches Found in Vehicles Fact Sheet
Fact Sheet, January 2007
For: Scrap metal recyclers, auto dismantlers and auto repair shops.
This fact sheet explains how to remove, replace, and handle mercury switches in vehicles. It also tells you about changes in the laws that say how to dispose of mercury and what to do if you have a spill. This fact sheet does not replace or supersede statutes or regulations. Always review the most current statutes and regulations. Mention of vehicle makes and models, repair facilities, or mercury switch handling facilities or other companies in this fact sheet is not to be construed as an endorsement by DTSC.
What is Mercury?
Mercury is a metal with special properties. It is liquid at room temperature and conducts electricity. This makes it ideal for use in light switches in vehicles.
What is a Mercury Light Switch?
Mercury light switches look like small capsules. When you open the hood or trunk of your car, the mercury moves to the end of the capsule and touches an electrical contact and the light turns on. When you close the hood or trunk, the mercury moves away from the contact and the light turns off.
There are also mercury switches in other parts of vehicles, such as the ABS system G-force sensors.
How Much Mercury is in a Light Switch?
A mercury light switch contains about one drop of mercury.
Is Mercury Dangerous?
Mercury is poisonous. If mercury is not disposed of safely, it can be released into the environment and harm people and wildlife.
Contact with mercury can cause:
- birth defects,
- nerve disorders,
- brain damage, or
How Do People Come into Contact with Mercury?
Mercury can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or eaten (in contaminated food).
Are There Laws About Handling Mercury?
Yes. In 2001, California passed a law called SB 633. This law:
- makes it illegal to sell certain items that contain mercury,
- encourages people who dismantle, recycle and repair vehicles to remove mercury switches, and
- makes the rules for handling switches simpler.
More information about Mercury and SB 633 is available at the DTSC website.
In 2003, DTSC adopted the “Mercury Waste Classification and Management regulations.” The regulations cleared up the rules for people who handle mercury switches removed from vehicles, and changed the rules for people who dismantle and recycle vehicles.
Starting January 1, 2005, a vehicle with a mercury switch is considered hazardous waste as soon as someone decides to
- shred, or
- shear it.
Since January 1, 2005, if you crush or shred a car without taking out the mercury switches, you will be breaking the law.
These laws also say you can handle mercury switches like universal waste.
Note: You do not have to remove the switches if damage to the vehicle makes it impossible.
What is Universal Waste?
Universal waste is a type of hazardous waste that uses simpler rules for transportation and disposal than the ones for other hazardous wastes.
How Do You Know if a Car Has Mercury Switches?
Below are lists car makes and models that have mercury switches in the hood or trunk. Additionally, the End of Life Vehicle Solutions (ELVS) vehicle list also has a list of vehicles. Neither list is all-inclusive. To be sure, check with the vehicle manufacturer.
Note: If a car has a hood or trunk light, and you don’t see a mechanical switch, it probably has a mercury switch.
Who Should Remove Mercury Switches from Vehicles?
Anyone who plans to crush, bale, shear, or shred a vehicle has to remove the mercury light switches from the hood and trunk. Usually, car dismantlers and scrap metal recyclers do this.
Auto repair shops do not have to remove mercury switches when they work on cars that are still in use. But, DTSC encourages repair shops to offer to replace and recycle mercury switches in the cars they repair. If a repair shop replaces or removes a mercury switch, they may handle it like universal waste.
Note: Before you remove mercury switches, make sure you and your employees know how to handle them safely, and know what to do if there’s a mercury spill.
When Should Mercury Switches be Removed?
It is easiest for dismantlers to remove mercury switches when they remove the battery, coolant, and brake fluid.
How Do I Remove Mercury Switches?
DTSC has created training manuals that tell you how to safely remove mercury switches from vehicles. They can be found on our Mercury Publications page.
How Do I Store Mercury Switches?
- Keep the mercury switches in a closed container in good condition.
- Do not use a metal container. Mercury can react with metal or leak through the seams.
- Wrap the switches in padding, like bubble wrap, so they won’t break.
- Keep the containers where they won’t be disturbed.
- Mark the container. Write on the label:
- “Universal Waste – Mercury” or
- “Waste – Mercury Switches” or
- “Used Mercury Switches”
How Long Can I Keep Mercury Switches?
If you handle them as universal waste, you can keep mercury switches for up to a year. Write the date on the container when you first store a mercury switch in it. That way you can show an inspector that you have not kept mercury switches for more than a year.
Do I Need an EPA Identification Number to Handle Mercury Switches as Universal Waste?
You do not need an EPA ID number unless you have more than 11,000 pounds of universal waste at one time. But, you still have to:
- Have a system for cleaning up mercury, and
- Train employees on how to handle switches and what to do in an emergency.
Do I Need a Special Carrier to Transport Mercury Switches?
No. If you handle them as universal waste you can transport the switches yourself. They have to be in sealed containers. If a switch is broken or damaged, put it in a sealed plastic bag inside the container. You do not have to use a hazardous waste manifest or a registered hazardous waste transporter.
If you handle other hazardous wastes, you can use your hazardous waste hauler to transport your mercury switches. You can also hire a commercial carrier that takes universal waste. Make sure the carrier knows and follows the rules for transporting universal waste.
If you ship packages of mercury switches by air or by water, you must follow the regulations for transporting hazardous materials found on the U.S. Department of Transportation website. If you use ground shipment, your package must meet the DOT regulations only if it contains more than one pound of mercury.
There is a new program that is available in California for the collection and proper disposal of mercury switches obtained from vehicles. This program provides collection buckets and educational materials regarding the switches and the program. It also provides a method for free disposal of the switches, and may even pay you to collect these switches. For more information, please contact the ELVS program, or DTSC.
Where Can I Ship Mercury Switches?
If you do not use the mercury switch collection program listed in the previous paragraph, you have to ship mercury switches to an authorized mercury recycling facility. You can take your mercury switches to a recycler or to a universal waste handler who collects switches before sending them to a recycler.
Below is a list of mercury switch handlers, transporting facilities and waste destination facilities in California.
Do I Have to Keep Records?
Yes. If you manage mercury switches as universal waste, then you must keep the following records for at least three years:
- How many vehicles you crushed, baled, shredded, or sheared,
- How many of the vehicles had mercury switches,
- How many mercury switches you removed from the vehicles, and
- How many vehicles had mercury switches that you could not remove because of accident damage.
Can I Replace Mercury Switches?
Yes. You can replace them with switches without mercury. They will work in almost all vehicles.
Here is a company that manufacture and supply mercury-free switches:
454 Allwood Road
Clifton, NJ 07012
Note: DTSC does not endorse this company. Contact the company if you have questions about replacing mercury switches with mercury-free switches.
What if There is a Mercury Spill?
Be very careful! It is dangerous to inhale, swallow, or handle mercury. If you see a broken, leaking, or damaged mercury switch, put it in a sealed plastic bag and then into a container.
Do not try to vacuum a mercury spill! Vacuuming spreads mercury vapors into the air. It can do more harm than good.
Write a plan of what to do if there’s a mercury spill. Keep personal protective equipment and a mercury spill kit nearby when you remove mercury switches. Make sure that the staff knows exactly how to use them. You can get affordable spill kits from laboratory and safety supply stores.
What if Someone Is Exposed to Mercury?
Mercury on the Skin
Wash the skin with soap and water. Remove all clothes that touched the mercury. Seal the clothes in a plastic bag. Put the plastic bag in a hazardous waste container. See a doctor right away!
Mercury in the Eye
Flush eyes with water for 15 minutes. See a doctor right away!
Get medical help right away! Call your poison control at (800) 222-1222 or your doctor for more information.
Where Can I Get More Information?
- To learn more about mercury and the laws for handling mercury switches, call the regional Public and Business Liaisons at: (800) 72 TOXIC (1-800-728-6942).
- There is a specific area on the DTSC website for information on Mercury.
- The ELVS website has information specific to California.
- Or, contact the DTSC office nearest you.
General Information About Mercury and Mercury Switches
- U.S. EPA
- U.S. EPA Region 9
- Municipal Waste Management Association
- Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers
Vehicles that Have Mercury Switches in the Hood or Trunk
Listed by parent company, brand, model or line, and years made.
- 7-Series: Before 1992; 1995-2002
- Rolls Royce: Before mid-1960s
- Ades: 1975-1994
- Concorde: 1993-1996
- Cordoba: 1975=1994
- E Class: 1983
- K Car: 1987
- Laser: 1975-1994
- LeBaron: 1975-1994
- New Yorker: 1975-1994
- Pacifica: 1998, 2003
- 2500 4×4: 1993
- 2500 Pickup: 1995
- 3500 Van: 1998
- Aries: 1975-1994
- Aspen: 1976
- Caravan: 1987-1989, 2000
- Caravio: 1992
- Dakota: 1993-1994, 1998
- Daytona: 1877, 1988, 1990
- Durango: 1998, 2000
- Duster: 1990
- Dynasty: 1982, 1989-1992
- Intrepid: 1994, 1996
- Lancer: 1986
- Landan: 1989
- Laser: 1975-1994
- Neon: 1998, 2000
- Ram Pickup: 1997-1998, 2001
- Ram Pickup 1500: 1887
- Roadstar: 1988
- Shadow: 1974-1994
- Spirit: 1990-1991, 1994, 1996
- Stratus: 1996
- Voyager: 1986-1987, 1991
- Medallion: 1989
- Premier: 1988-1989
- Vision: 1994
- Cherokee: 1998-1999
- Cherokee Sport: 1996
- Grand Cherokee: 1993, 1995-1999
- Grand Cherokee Wagoneer: 1989
- Wrangler: 1992, 1994, 1999
- Acclaim: 1986, 1990-1992, 1994
- Reliant: 1975-1994
- Sundance: 1975-1994
- Aerostar: 1989
- Bronco: 1986
- Bronco II: 1974-1994, 1993-1997
- Crown Victoria: 1974-1994, 1997, 2000-2001
- E-350: 1993, 2000
- Escort: 1974-1985, 1998
- Escort GT: 1991
- Escort LX: 1991, 1992, 1995, 1997
- Escort Pony: 1991
- Escort S/W: 1995
- Escort SE: 1999
- Escort Wagon: 1997
- Excursion: 2000-2001
- Expedition: 2000-2001
- Explorer: 1991-2002
- F-150: 1988, 1990-1991, 1993, 1996-1998, 2000-2001
- F-250: 1998, 1990-1993, 1995-2001
- F-350: 1988, 1996, 1999-2001
- F-150 Supercrew: 2000
- LTD: 1974-1994
- Mustang: 1986, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1996
- Probe: 1989, 1993, 1994
- Ranger: 1974-1997, 1998, 995-2001
- Ranger XLT: 1995, 1997
- Scorpio: 1988, 1985-1993
- Superduty: 1992
- Taurus: 1974-1999
- Tempo: 1974-1994, 1996
- Tempo GL: 1988, 1993
- Thunderbird: 1974-1994
- Van: 1988, 1993, 1995
- Windstar: 1996, 2000
- Blackwood: 2001
- Continental: 1988-1991, 1994-1995, 2000-2002
- Mark 7: 1988
- Navigator: 2000-2002
- Town Car: 1994, 2002
- Pickup: 1996
- RX-7 Turbo: 1990
- Cougar: 1974-1990, 1995
- Grand Marquis: 1985-1986, 1993, 1997, 2001
- Mountaineer: 1996-2001
- Sable: 1987-1995, 1998-1999
- Sable LS: 1994
- Topaz: 1987, 1990, 1992
- Tracer: 1988, 1993
- Villager: 1993, 2000
- XR4TI: 1987
- 240/260: 1975-1991
- 740/760: 1982-1990
- 744/764: 1982-1991
- Celebrity: 1977-1990
- Century: 1977-1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2002
- Electra: 1981, 1985, 1990
- Fifth Avenue: 1985
- Firenza: 1977-1990
- LeSabre: 1974-1994, 1996-2000
- LeSabre Custom: 1989
- Park Avenue: 1974-1991, 1998-1999, 2002
- Regal: 1974-1994, 1996
- Regal Limited: 1991
- Riveria: 1986-1990, 1993
- Roadmaster: 1992
- Skyhawk: 1977-1990
- Skylark: 1977-1990, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998
- Ultra: 1998
- Brougham: 1987, 1989
- Cimarron: 1979, 1998-2003
- DeVille: 1979-1991, 1996, 2000-2002, 1998-2003
- El Dorado: 1982, 1991, 1992, 2001
- Escalade: 2000, 1998-2003
- Seville SLS/STS: 1998-2003
- Standard: 1986, 1996
- 98: 1983, 1985, 1988, 1994
- 250: 1998
- 1500: 1989, 1994
- 2500: 1997
- 1500 4×4: 1996, 1998
- 3/4 Ton Pickup: 1994
- 3500 4×4: 1997
- Avalanche: 2001
- Beretta: 1981-1990
- Blazer: 1987, 1989, 1993-1994, 1997, 1999-2002
- Blazer 1500: 1991
- Blazer S-10: 1989-1992, 1994, 1996-1998, 2000, 2002
- C3500 Pickup: 1989, 1991
- Camero: 1984, 1989
- Caprice: 1981-1991
- Caprice Classic: 1984, 1988
- Cavalier: 1988-1991, 1993, 1995-1996, 2000-2002
- Celebrity: 1986-1987
- Cheyenne: 1996
- Corsica: 1988-1993
- Express Van: 2000-2002
- Impala: 2001
- K1500: 1996, 1998
- K2500 Pickup: 1991, 1994
- K3500 Pickup: 1993
- Lumina: 1981-1995, 1998
- Lumina Euro: 1990
- Lumina Z-34: 1992
- Malibu: 1997
- Monte Carlo: 2000
- Passport: 1989
- Pickup: 1988, 1989, 1991-1996, 1998, 2000-2002
- S-10 Pickup: 1998, 2000
- Silverado: 1999
- Suburban: 1990-1991, 1994-1995, 1997-2002
- Tahoe: 1995-1998
- 4×4: 1997-1998
- Denali: 2000
- Envoy: 1998-2001
- G-20 Van: 1995
- Jimmy: 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998-2001
- Luxury G-Van: 2002
- Pickup 1500: 1993
- Savanna Van: 2000-2002
- Sonoma: 1994
- Yukon: 1998
- 6000: 1988
- 6000 LE: 1990
- Bonneville: 1984-1991, 1994, 1995, 2002
- Firebird: 1989, 1994-1995, 2002
- Grand Am: 1984-1999
- Grand Prix: 1985-1986, 1988-1996
- Parisienne: 1982
- Sunbird: 1984-1990
- Sunfire: 1997-2002
- Trans Sport: 1993-1996
- Vibe: 2002
- 88: 1990-1991, 1993, 1997
- 98: 1983, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994
- 98 Regency: 1985
- Achieva: 1992-1993
- Aurora: 2001
- Bravada: 2000-2001
- Calais: 1977-1991
- Ciera: 1977-1991, 1993-1995
- Cutlass: 1977, 1983, 1988, 1990-1992, 1996
- Cutlass Cruiser: 1986, 1988, 1992
- Cutlass Supreme: 1977-1996
- Delta 88: 1977-1995
- Firenza: 1984
- Intrigue: 1999
- Omega: 1980
- Royale: 1982, 1986, 1989
- Regency: 1977-1990
- Toronado: 1977-1990
- Toronado Trofeo: 1987-1988
- Wagon: 1991
- 9000/900: Pre-1992
- SER: 1993
- 944: 1985-1991
- Celica GT: 1990
- SR5: 1986
- Weekender Van: Not specified
*Note: There may be other models that contain mercury switches.
Companies that Handle and Transport Mercury Switches in California
AERC-MTI (Advanced Environmental Recycling Co. – Mercury Technologies Int’l)
30677 Huntwood Ave.
Hayward, CA 94555
Tel: (800) 628-3675
Fax: (510) 429-1498
Chemical Waste Management
35251 Old Skyline Road
Kettleman City, CA 93239
Tel: (550) 386-9711
Clean Harbors Los Angeles, LLC Los Angeles Facility
5756 Alba Street
Los Angeles, CA 90058
Tel: (323) 277-2500
Fax: (323) 277-2523
Clean Harbors of San Jose, LLC San Jose Facility
1040 Commercial St., Suite 109
San Jose, CA 95112
Tel: (408) 451-5000
Fax: (408) 453-6045
Kinsbursky Brothers, Inc.
1314 North Anaheim Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92801
Tel: (714) 738-8516
Fax: (714) 441-0857
Kinsbursky Environmental Management
101 North Glover Ave., Suite B
Chula Vista, CA 91909
Tel: (619) 409-9292
Lighting Resources, Inc. Ontario Branch
805 East Francis Street
Ontario, CA 91741
Tel: (888) 923-7252
Fax: (909) 923-7510
North State Environmental – Southern California
2776 South Lilac Ave.
Bloomington, CA 92316
Tel: (909) 875-9288
Fax: (909) 875-9813
North State Environmental
5519 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92117
Tel: (858) 273-8669
Fax: (858) 273-8678
North State Environmental – Northern California
90 South Spruce Ave., Ste. C3
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Tel: (650) 588-2838
Fax: (650) 588-1950
Onyx Environmental Services, Inc.
4227 Technology Drive
Fremont, CA 94538
Tel: (510) 651-2964
Fax: (510) 656-4926
Onyx Environmental Services, Inc.
1704 West First Street
Azusa, CA 91702
Tel: (626) 334-5117
Fax: (626) 334-4563
Onyx Environmental Services, Inc.
5202 Oceanus Drive
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Tel: (714) 379-6000
Fax: (714) 379-6010
Onyx Environmental Services, Inc.
1125 Hendey Street
Richmond, CA 94801
Tel: (510) 233-8001
Fax: (510) 235-9427
2439 Industrial Parkway West
Hayward, CA 94545
Tel: (800) 884-8982
Fax: (510) 782-8984
Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc.
Cluster II, Building 3
5400 Legacy Drive
Plano, TX 75024
Tel: (800) 669-5740
Fax: (972) 265-2000
Thomas Gray & Associates, Inc.
1205 West Barkley Ave.
Orange, CA 92868
Tel: (714) 997-8090
Fax: (714) 997-3561
Note: Most hazardous waste transporters registered with DTSC handle and transport mercury switches.
Disclaimer: This list includes commercial firms found to offer mercury-containing switch handling services. DTSC does not endorse or recommend any specific vendor. In addition, this list is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a complete or up-to-date list of companies that provide mercury-handling and recycling services in California. Contact companies directly to obtain information regarding services provided, company-specific packaging and labeling requirements, and costs.
Waste Destination Facilities that Accept Mercury Switches from California 1
AERC-MTI (Advanced Environmental Recycling Co. – Mercury Technologies Int’l)
2591 Mitchell Avenue
Allentown, PA 18103
Bethlehem Apparatus Company, Inc.
890 Front Street,
PO Box Y Hellerton, PA 18055
Tel: (610) 838-7034
Fax: (610) 838-6333
Lighting Resources, Inc.
498 Park Drive
Greenwood, IN 46143
Tel: (317) 888-3889
Fax: (317) 888-3890
Mercury Waste Solutions, Inc. National Processing Center
21211 Durand Avenue
Union Grove, WI 53182-9711
NSSI Sources and Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 34042
Houston, TX 77234
Onyx Environmental Services, Inc. (dba: Onyx Special Services, Inc.)
5736 West Jefferson Street
Phoenix, AZ 85043
Note: This list includes commercial firms that were found to offer mercury-containing switch recovery services. The Department of Toxic Substances Control does not endorse or recommend a specific vendor. In addition, this list is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a complete or up-to-date list of vendors that provide mercury recovery services in California. Contact companies directly to obtain information regarding services provided, company-specific packaging and labeling requirements, and costs.
1 These facilities have a mercury retort to recover mercury from switches.
This fact sheet does not replace or supersede relevant statutes and regulations. The information contained in this fact sheet is based upon the statutes and regulations in effect as of the date of the fact sheet. Interested parties should keep apprised of subsequent changes to relevant statutes and regulations.
Hazardous Waste Links
- Hazardous Waste Home
- Certified Appliance Recycler (CAR) Program
- Electronic Waste (E-Waste)
- Facilities (TSDFs)
- Hazardous Waste ID Numbers
- Hazardous Waste Manifests
- Hazardous Waste Tracking System
- Household Hazardous Waste
- Land Use Restriction Sites
- Metal Recycling
- Toxics in Products
- Universal Waste
- Form 1358
- California Hazardous Waste Codes
Hazardous Waste Related Links
- Annual/Biennial Reports
- Emergency Response Program
- Export-Import Standards
- Fact Sheets & Publications
- Find a Registered Hazardous Waste Transporter
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Hazardous Waste Policies & Procedures
- Hazardous Waste Project Documents
- Kettleman Hills Landfill
- Office of Criminal Investigations
- Regulatory Assistance Office
- Report an Environmental Concern
- Retail Waste