Heavy metals in cars likely to stay until after 2005

The European Parliament's environment committee (EPEC) has put forward several exemptions to the European Commission's proposed end-of-life vehicles directive despite widespread approval of the measures from EU governments.

The directive had proposed that four heavy metals used in cars – mercury, lead, hexavalent chromium and cadmium – be removed from any car before being scrapped. EU governments wanted to impose even stricter regulations by banning their use altogether.

Surprisingly, the EPEC has accepted that, with the exception of cadmium, the European car industry still needs to use heavy metals for specific body parts, although it has insisted that the actual proportion of heavy metals used must be gradually reduced over time.

It has therefore blocked the European Commission’s draft and proposed that: lead may still be used in alloys and as a stabiliser in coatings and plastic components; hexavalent chromium may still be used in anti-corrosive coatings on components; and light bulbs may still contain mercury.

However, the EPEC also voted that from July 2001 all cars due for shredding must have any mercury removed, and that the three other heavy metals will be banned from landfill disposal from the same date.

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