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Parts containing mercury were used for items like anti-lock brakes sensors and hood light switches until 2004. The following year, an umbrella organization called End of Life Vehicle Solutions (ELVS) began retrieving the mercury switches from junked cars, its activities paid for by contributions from automakers.

Here's the problem: General Motors went through the bankruptcy earlier this year and was able to pawn off a lot of unwanted things onto a new company called, originally, General Motors Company (since renamed Motors Liquidation Company). Some of the unwanted crap includes polluted old factories (which we knew about) and the responsibility to safely discard mercury switches in vehicles that were scrapped in the recently-concluded Cash For Clunkers program.