DES MOINES - The Iowa Senate passed a rule Tuesday that would encourage the removal of mercury switches from junked cars, a measure intended to lower the amount of mercury into the environment.
Sen. Jim Hahn, R-Muscatine, led the push for an amendment that says the Iowa rule would remain in effect even if the federal government passes its own rule.
The bill requires automakers to pay $4 to junkyards for each mercury switch removed from a vehicle. The switches, typically located in the trunk and glove compartment, are the devices that turn on a light on when the compartment doors are opened. Hahn, whose district includes two steel mills, said the presence of mercury switches is an ongoing concern.
Junkyards crush cars and sell them to steel mills to be melted down. Some of the cars contain mercury switches, which leads to the release of mercury into the environment when the cars are melted. He said Iowa needs to pass new rules for mercury switches rather than rely on the federal government.
"We've got the opportunity to lead out here in this area," he said.
Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, supported Hahn's amendment. He blamed the auto industry for not removing mercury switches decades ago, despite evidence of mercury's the harmful effects. "We know that mercury causes problems and could cause birth defects," he said.
The bill now heads to the House, which approved a previous version of the bill, but now must consider the changes made by the Senate.
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CAW is still working with Assembly Member Levine, the Auto Alliance of Manufacturers, and California’s auto dismantler association on a temporarily voluntary mercury switch program. A press event will be schedules to unveil the program once it is finalized.