ALEXANDRIA, Va.--(Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, this year’s awareness efforts coincide with increased concern about children’s exposure to lead, the enduring legacy of lead poisoning and the role large retailers may play in supporting developing countries’ increased lead emissions. With more than 754 million pounds of used car, truck, boat and other spent lead acid batteries (SLABs) being sent to Mexican recyclers each year, Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is an excellent opportunity to revisit the issue of substandard foreign recycling, which emits vastly higher amount of lead and other toxins.)--As the U.S. government and health advocates across the country mark the beginning of
“The CEC’s preliminary findings, coupled with the Centers for Disease Control’s action earlier in the year make it obvious that foreign SLAB recycling is exposing workers, families, and children to decades of potential lead poisoning.”
“The recent release of a discussion paper by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) detailing the failings of Mexican SLAB recyclers should concern every large retailer and auto service chain,” said Diane L. Cullo, Director of SLAB Watchdog. “The CEC’s preliminary findings, coupled with the Centers for Disease Control’s action earlier in the year make it obvious that foreign SLAB recycling is exposing workers, families, and children to decades of potential lead poisoning.”
Earlier this year, health advocates, parents, and concerned citizens were stunned by the findings from a USA Today series entitled, “Ghost Factories” that detailed the real and long lasting effects of lead contamination from long closed factories across the United States. The articles, coupled with the United States Centers for Disease Control’s action to lower the threshold for lead poisoning in children, focused new attention on the danger to communities that support Mexican SLAB recyclers.
“In the last 18 months there have been three independent investigations of the Mexican battery recycling industry and each one has highlighted the weak environmental and health standards,” noted Cullo. “The CEC discussion paper, the report by Occupational Knowledge International, and The New York Times all raised serious questions about Mexican recycling, yet when we try to engage retailers like Wal-Mart, Costco, or Bridgestone-Firestone, they ignore the issue or rely on assurances of good stewardship from their recyclers.”
“Retailers cannot continue to stick their heads in the sand on this issue. Lead poisoning will affect these communities long after the retailers have moved on.”
Although the take back and recycling of used lead acid batteries in the United States could be considered an environmental success story, a closer look shows that an ever-increasing amount of SLABs are being sent to Mexico to avoid strict U.S. environmental and worker safety regulations. While consumers who replace their batteries pay to have them recycled, the retailers and auto service centers who take their old batteries are handing over the toxic waste to companies seeking to maximize profits at the expense of community health by recycling the batteries in developing countries.
Through the efforts of SLAB Watchdog and others, several concurrent actions are being taken to examine the dangers of sub-standard lead acid battery recycling. As a tri-lateral body consisting of the chief environmental officers from the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the CEC is developing a report on the dangers of transboundry battery movement. Recognizing that used batteries bought with taxpayer money and used by federal agencies are being recycled in substandard foreign facilities, the United States government has instituted a process through ASTM International to develop an international recycling standard that reduces harmful emissions.
“The federal government’s recognition that foreign recycling emits more lead and increases community and worker harm should compel retailers and auto centers to pay closer attention to the recycling of the SLABs they handle. We hope the greater awareness of Lead Poisoning Prevention Week will force them to stop the denying their role and start acting like responsible corporate citizens,” concluded Diane Cullo.
This week, SLAB Watchdog asks the American people to pay attention to the important issue of SLAB exports by becoming a watchdog on lead acid battery exports. The companies who export SLABs to Mexico only do it because their customers allow it. By learning more at www.slabwatchdog.com, you can hold retailers and their suppliers accountable.
SLAB Watchdog is committed to the safe and domestic recycling of spent lead-acid batteries (SLABs) and operates off of four basic principles: (1) Recycling of SLABs must occur in the United States by facilities that utilize the most advanced technologies that minimize environmental damage; (2) Transportation of SLABs must comply with federal regulations regarding the loading and bracing of SLABs to avoid damage and toxic spills; (3) Collection facilities should only use battery brokers who sign a memorandum of agreement committing to use domestic recyclers; (4) Federal, state and local governments must establish protocol to ensure that all SLABs generated by their vehicle fleets are recycled at domestic facilities.