MAC: Mines and Communities

US: toxic lead is affecting eleven states

Published by MAC on 2010-11-22
Source: Environmental News Service, Reuters, The Hindu (2010-11-17)

Recyling plants must also share the blame

Sixteen areas in 11 US states have concentrations of airborne toxic lead that are too high to meet national air quality standards, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Contributing to these unacceptable levels are not only lead smelters, but also lead recycling plants.

In nearly a third of the cases, responsibility for the violation lies with Exide Technologies, one of the world's largest producers, distributors and recyclers of lead-acid batteries, with such facilities throughout Europe, in India, Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Exide's Bristol plant in Tennessee is the world's largest battery production and distribution center and is now on track to manufacture "advanced lead-acid batteries" for electric vehicles.

Another offender is Doe Run, whose Herculaneum smelter in Missouri has repeatedly violated clean air standards for years. But the company isn't intending to close the plant down for another two years.

This absence of corporate responsibility is all too familiar to Peruvian citizens suffering from the Doe Run's operations in Peru - 35 of whom are now in the USA itself, trying to call it to account. See: Doe Run faces its Peruvian victims in US court

Areas Violating Lead Standards Host Smelters, Battery Recyclers

Environmental News Service (ENS)

17 November 2010

WASHINGTON, DC - Sixteen areas in 11 states have concentrations of toxic lead in the air that are too high to meet national air quality standards for lead, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The designated areas must develop and implement plans to reduce pollution to meet the lead standards by December 31, 2015, the EPA said.

Exposure to lead, even at low levels, may impair children's intelligence, learning capabilities and behavior, and contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease in adults, scientists have determined.

These 16 areas were classed as "nonattainment" areas because air quality monitoring data from 2007 to 2009 showed that they did not meet the agency's new health-based standard.

In October 2008, during the Bush administration, the EPA strengthened the nation's air quality standards for lead tenfold to 0.15 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air.

The agency also finalized requirements for new monitors to be located near large sources of lead emissions.

EPA is designating areas as meeting or not meeting the new standards in two rounds. In the first round announced Tuesday, EPA designated areas that fail to meet the standards based on air quality monitoring data from the existing lead monitoring network.

EPA is currently collecting data from new monitors that began operation in January 2010.

In October 2011, EPA will use data from the new monitors to complete a second round of designations that will classify the remaining areas as either in attainment, unclassifiable or nonattainment.

Lead has been eliminated from gasoline, and as a result, national average concentrations of lead in the air have dropped almost 92 percent nationwide since 1980, the agency said.

The Exide battery manufacture and recycling facility north of Reading, Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy EPA)

But the toxic metal is still released by many factories, including smelters, battery manufacturers and recyclers, utilities waste incinerators, iron and steel foundries and general aviation gasoline.

Five of the 16 nonattaiment areas host facilities of one company - Exide Technologies, one of the world's largest producers, distributors and recyclers of lead-acid batteries.

Frisco, Texas made the nonattaiment list, for example, due to emissions from Exide Technologies's battery recycling plant located in a Collin County community. The recycled lead is smelted and cast into lead-alloy bars to make new battery plates. Last year, the plant emitted about 1.67 tons of lead into the air.

On November 4, Exide Technologies announced that testing for blood lead concentration is available for all residents of the City of Frisco, at the company's expense.

"We are offering this testing to all residents of the City of Frisco in order to provide peace of mind regarding blood lead levels," said Don Barar, plant manager for Exide's Frisco recycling facility. "I encourage any citizen who has a question about blood lead levels to take advantage of this testing."

Another Exide automotive battery recycling center landed the city of Muncie, Indiana on the nonattainment list. This facility recycles five to seven million spent lead-acid automotive batteries per year.

A third Exide facility located just northeast of Reading, Pennsylvania that manufactures and recycles lead batteries contributed to the designation of North Reading as a nonattaiment area. The company has also paid for blood lead testing in this area.

A fourth Exide battery recycler is partly responsible for the inclusion of Los Angeles County in California's South Coast Air Basin on the nonattainment list.

On November 9, the South Coast Air Quality Management District adopted regulations that will bring Exide Technologies in the City of Industry and Quemetco, in Vernon into compliance with the new national lead standards by January 1, 2012.

"The region will benefit from these landmark actions to improve local air quality and protect public health," said William Burke, who chairs the AQMD's Governing Board.

A fifth Exide facility is located in the nonattament area of Bristol, Tennessee. The world's largest battery production and distribution center, located a few miles from Bristol Motor Speedway, this Exide plant will manufacture advanced lead-acid batteries for electric vehicles. The company won $34.3 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to manufacture the new batteries with advanced carbon technology.

Troy, Alabama is on the nonattaiment list due to the presence of Sanders Lead Company, a facility that recycles lead-acid batteries, scrap metal and lead bearing by-products into refined lead alloys.

Tampa, Florida is in nonattainment due to emissions from Enviro Focus Technologies, formerly, Gulf Coast Lead Co.; and Tampa Lead Industries.

Jefferson, Missouri also is on the nonattainment list. A lead smelter has been in operation in nearby Herculaneum for over 100 years and is currently operated by the Doe Run Company. The smelter has repeatedly violated the clean air standard for lead, and over the last 20 years, the EPA, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources have taken multiple actions to bring the smelter into compliance. Doe Run has announced it will be closing the smelter in 2013.

Cleveland, Bellefontaine, and Delta, Ohio; Iron, Missouri; Eagan, Minnesota; Granite City, Illinois; and Lower Beaver Valley and Lyons, Pennsylvania are also on the nonattainment list.

No areas in Indian Country were designated as nonattainment.

Lead emitted into the air can be inhaled or can be ingested after it settles. Ingestion is the primary route of human exposure. Children are the most susceptible because they are more likely to ingest lead and their bodies are developing rapidly. There is no known safe level of lead in the body.


China To Cut Lead-Acid Battery Recyclers - Assn

By Polly Yam

Reuters

15 November 2010

China will cut the number of firms it allows to recycle lead-acid batteries for refined lead production, a top industry official said on Sunday.

Industry sources estimate China will only allow around 20 battery recyclers to operate in the future, compared with the many hundreds of firms currently operating.

"The government will do it for sure in the future," Cao Guoqing, vice general secretary of the China Battery Industry Association, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Shenzhen city, Guangdong province.

He did not say when the government was likely to introduce the regulations, but said it aims to improve environmental standards in the battery industry, the top user of refined lead in China.

China is the world's biggest producer and consumer of refined lead.

By 2015, China's production of lead-acid batteries will hit 240 million kilowatt hours, double 2009 levels, Cao estimated.

China used 2.35 million tonnes of refined lead for lead-acid battery production in 2009, accounting for about 70 percent of the country's total refined lead consumption that year, he said.

The country's recycled refined lead production will rise to 1.75 million tonnes in 2011, 1.93 million tonnes in 2012, and 2.69 million tonnes in 2015, from 1.49 million tonnes in 2010 and 1.24 million tonnes in 2009, he said.

China's refined lead production, including primary and recycled metal, may reach near 3.9 million tonnes this year and above 4.2 million tonnes in 2011, state-backed research firm Antaike predicted at the weekend.

(Editing by Daniel Magnowski)


"Most lead batteries do not end up with registered recyclers"

The Hindu

28 October 2010

NEW DELHI: Used lead batteries are not being collected in sufficient quantity to protect public health and the environment from lead hazards according to a recent report "Lead Battery Recycling in India'' based on company records obtained by Occupational Knowledge International (OK International).

"Used lead batteries must be collected on a mass scale to facilitate investments in large-scale environmentally-sound recycling or we will continue to witness environmental contamination and harmful exposures from backyard recyclers and other marginal operations,'' noted Perry Gottesfeld, Executive Director of OK International, in a release issued by the group.

"The current system is inadequate to ensure that most lead batteries are being collected and taken to registered recyclers."

The report noted that most battery manufacturers took back very few used batteries from 2005 to 2010.

"Given the explosive growth in the lead battery market and poor recycling practices that result in the release of millions of tonnes of lead to the environment, we can expect its future shortages," said Mr. Gottesfeld.

The report is being issued almost ten years after the release of the Indian Battery Management and Handling Rules that require lead battery manufacturers to collect a minimum of 90 per cent of the batteries they sell through dealers.

Company records

OK International has issued the report based on company records obtained under the Right to Information Act for six key States representing a majority of lead battery manufacturing units in India.

The key findings noted that only one of the 22 manufacturers, for which data was received, is collecting batteries at the 90 per cent rate.

No central effort

Most major manufacturers, however, are taking back only a small percentage of their total sales.

There is no central effort to collect information on compliance with the Battery Management and Handling Rules and there is no penalty for those who fail to meet the regulatory requirement, notes the report.

India has 336 'registered recyclers', but only 17 facilities with capacity greater than 10,000 tonnes/year, (which is the minimum size requirement for lead recyclers in China) and only two have a capacity greater than 50,000 tonnes/year -- the size at which adequate pollution controls are considered to be cost effective.

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