Battery Recycling and Water Pollution
Battery recycling has been identified as one of the top 10 sources of pollution in the world. Many third-world countries have few regulations to prevent lead from escaping into the environment during the battery-recycling process. Lead pollution may be slowing global warming but its harmful effects outweigh even this benefit. Lead pollution causes lead to concentrate in the bodies of aquatic wildlife where it can be ingested by humans. Children are the most profoundly affected by lead pollution because it can lead to developmental disabilities and lowered intelligence.
What Pollutants From Battery Recycling End Up in Water?
We usually think of recycling as Eco-friendly, but battery recycling has been identified as one of the top 10 sources of pollution in the world. Batteries thrown into landfills will soon corrode and the toxic chemicals in them will leach out into the soil where they will find their way into the water supply.
However, improper battery recycling can be just as harmful as throwing batteries into landfills. Improper battery recycling often allows lead to escape into the environment where it pollutes the water supply anyway. Most western nations have strict regulations and controls in place to make sure that this does not happen.
Many third-world countries which have few environmental regulations are major importers of used car batteries which are broken down to reclaim the lead. These battery-recycling operations are often done as a subsistence activity by individuals working in their own homes or back yards. Unfortunately, these individuals often allow the sulfuric acid from the broken batteries to flow onto the ground and then smelt the lead over open air fires, where much escapes into the soil and air.
How Does This Pollution Affect the Environment?
Some researchers theorize that lead pollution from battery recycling may have a positive impact on the environment. Lead in the air has been found to cause ice crystals to form in clouds. This may slow the onset of global warming.
However, these crystals eventually fall to earth in the form of rain. When weighed against the direct impact that lead in drinking water has on human and animal health, the environmental benefits become questionable.
Signs of lead poisoning, including reduced survival, impaired reproduction, and lowered growth rates are evident in aquatic wildlife at very low levels. In addition, the lead concentrates in the bodies of these fish and game birds where it can be ingested by humans.
How Does It Affect Humans?
It isn’t just the workers at poorly-regulated battery recycling plants who suffer. Individuals who live near poorly-regulated battery recycling plants have been found to have high levels of lead in their blood. Women of child-bearing age and children are the most profoundly affected. High lead levels can lead to brain damage, lower intelligence and many other developmental problems in children.