Battery recycling plants causing high lead contamination - study

20Jan 2018
James Kandoya
The Guardian
Battery recycling plants causing high lead contamination - study

TANZANIA is among seven African countries which have extensive lead contamination around lead battery recycling plants, ranging from 14 per cent and an average concentration of 2 per cent.

OKI Executive Director Perry Gottesfeld

This is according to an international study conducted by AGENDA - a non-governmental organization (NGO) for environment and responsible development, and OK International - a US-based NGO working to build capacity in developing countries – which was conducted between July and November 2017.

Speaking to the Guardian yesterday, AGENDA Principal Programme Officer Silvan Mng’anya said the study found that there was high contamination levels in the soil up to 14 per cent lead, with average concentration of 2 per cent.

He said that lead battery recycling was a growing hazardous industry throughout Africa, adding that lead pollution at these sites posed significant health risks to the public.

He said to the study, ‘Soil contamination from lead battery manufacturing and recycling in seven African countries,’ published in the journal Environment Research, tested areas surrounding 16 authorized industrial  facilities in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania and Tunisia.

Citing Tanzania, Mng’anya said lead battery recycling plants in Tanzania ranged up to 1,000 parts per million (PPM), adding that the level below 80 PPM was considered safe for children.

“There are no industry specific regulations controlling the release of lead from these recycling plants or to protect workers and children in surrounding communities,” he said.

For his part, Occupational Knowledge International (OKI) Coordinator Michael Manti said few countries in Africa had adequate regulations governing the operations and emissions from lead battery recycling.

“Lead battery manufacturing and recycling are extremely hazardous industries and companies should be required to publicly disclose their air emissions on an annual basis,” he said.

Mant noted that one of the facilities tested was located within approximately 20 metres from the residential area of Vingunguti, a suburb of dare s Salaam, with 106,946 inhabitants, according to the 2012 population and housing census.

OKI Executive Director Perry Gottesfeld and the lead author of the study, said, “There is an immediate need to limit lead emissions from these industries and to test children’s exposure levels in nearby communities,” adding that many countries, including Tanzania, had no laboratories that can routinely test blood vessels

The author called on the governments to ensure that plant operators set aside funds for enclosures to ensure that lead soil contamination was not left behind.

One such site around a lead battery recycling plant in Mombasa, Kenya, has never been remediated was responsible for the poisoning of hundreds of nearby residents by lead emissions.