Dirty business: Africa's unregulated lead battery smelting
March 3, 2016
"Africa's car battery recycling industry is anything but green, write Desirée García & Javier Marín on African Environment Day. Toxic emissions from the re-smelting of lead from old batteries is poisoning workers and nearby communities. And among the buyers of the lead are EU car companies, apparently indifferent to the death, disease and contamination they are financing.
In every African country, tens of thousands of individuals working on the side of the road or in backyards carry out lead battery recycling, according to UN sources. Besides this widespread informal smelting, corruption has helped big companies operate in many African countries disregarding international environmental regulations.
"While the recycling of lead batteries is mostly done in a quite safe manner in industrialised economies, the conditions are alarming in developing countries such as Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya or Indonesia", warns Andreas Manhart, a researcher at the Öko-Institut.
According to the German institute, the lead exposure often reaches life threatening levels in these factories, and deadly accidents have been reported from Senegal, Kenya and Ghana."