Children given lead poisoning by battery industry

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Battery recycling plants in the developing world are leaving local children with dangerous levels of lead in their bodies.

According to Occupational Knowledge International (OK International), children living near such facilities have around 13 times more lead in their blood than American children.

 Children given lead poisoning by battery industryThey also found that workers in developing countries had three times more lead in their blood than battery workers in the US. Lead levels in the air inside lead battery plants in developing countries were seven times higher than the levels permitted by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"Children and workers in developing countries face significant risks of lead poisoning, which can cause lifelong health problems," said Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of OK International.

"Without major improvements, we expect that lead poisoning cases will continue to increase as the industry grows."

The battery industry uses around 80 percent of global lead production, with lead battery manufacturing growing rapidly to meet demand for batteries in cars, motorcycles, electric vehicles, solar power systems and cellular phones.

In many developing countries, the industry is expected to nearly double in size in the next five to 10 years.

The average exposures observed by the team are significantly higher than the levels at which health effects have been identified in both children and adults.

Lead poisoning causes damage to the central nervous system, the kidneys, the cardiovascular system and the reproductive system. In children, it can lead to learning impairments, as well as hyperactive and violent behavior.

"At the exposure levels observed, developing countries are losing billions of dollars as a result of reduced school performance, loss of productivity and increased medical costs," says Gottesfeld.

"Given the lack of regulatory and enforcement capacity in most developing countries, third party certification programs may be the only viable option to improve conditions, protect human health and strengthen these nations' economies."

The study's release follows reports of a large number of mass lead poisoning incidents around lead battery recycling and manufacturing plants in China. Earlier this month, the country recently closed 583 such facilities.

The full report is available here.