November 16, 2016: Environmental organizations Green Cross Switzerland and Pure Earth identified the used lead-acid battery industry as the most polluting industry in the world in their joint report released on October 26.
In the The World’s Worst Pollution Problems 2016: The Toxics Beneath Our Feet, the two organizations identified the ULAB industry as being responsible for almost five million ‘Disability-Adjusted Life Years’ (DALYs). A DALY is public health jargon for the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death.
The report claims the 10 most polluting industries in the world are responsible for 17 million DALYs.
Lead smelting is number three in the report’s list, with up to 2.5 million DALYs identified. The second most polluting industry was mining and ore processing, with up to 2.6 million.
The International Lead Association responded with a statement claiming the recycling rates of lead batteries had been a success story in recent years, with 99% of ULABs in Europe and North America now collected and recycled.
However, the problems lay in the lack of regulations and expertise in emerging economies, where “informal recycling of lead batteries by cottage industries is acknowledged as a major problem that results in significant environmental pollution”.
“The ILA has for many years run an improvement programme on risk management and responsible care for the recycling industry in Africa, South-East Asia and South America, often in partnership with Pure Earth, national governments and non-governmental organizations such as the Basel Secretariat and the United Nations Environment Programme with very positive results for local communities,” said a spokesman for the ILA.
“Through ILA the lead recycling industry in the developed world takes its role as a promoter of responsible care very seriously and will continue to work with others bodies, such as Pure Earth, to try to ensure that the great success stories of closed-loop recycling of lead batteries is replicated in other regions.”