May 20, 2021: Lead-acid batteries have been removed from the California Department of Toxic Substances Controls’ danger list of potential ‘Priority Products’, Battery Council International announced on May 10.
The action is a major victory for the industry as a whole and BCI, which has been campaigning for years to make sure lead batteries are not included on this list.
‘Priority Products’, listed under the DTSC’s Safer Consumer Products Programme, have to undergo an Alternatives Analysis process whereby manufacturers have to seek other options to find less toxic chemicals to use in their products.
Lead-acid batteries were added to the DTSC 2015-2017 Work Plan for consideration as a potential Priority Product because they contain three ‘Candidate Chemicals’ lead, arsenic and sulfuric acid.
“Lead exposures to workers and neighbouring areas may occur during recycling and manufacturing operations,” the Work Plan said. “Lead exposures are known to cause neurological as well as other effects, and arsenic is a carcinogen. Lead exposure to children is especially of concern since there is no known threshold concentration for neurological effects.”
But among other arguments against the potential move, put forward by the industry, is that the sector is already extremely tightly regulated and poses no harm to consumers.
After a rigorous evaluation of potential life-cycle impacts, current regulations and product innovation, the DTSC has now agreed to exclude lead batteries.
BCI has been working for years for this outcome, saying inclusion on the list would be ‘inappropriate and unlawful’.
In a nine-page letter to the DTSC in March 2018, the council said: “Prematurely mandating that California consumers and businesses switch from a proven safe, economical and proven battery technology to new and unproven battery technologies with known significant environmental and public safety risks, and unknown long-term impacts, would not meet the agency’s statutory mandate.
“DTSC action on lead batteries may also have the unintended consequence of reducing the value of recycling for lead batteries, upending the current closed-loop life cycle.
“This could perversely cause more lead batteries to wind up in landfills or with less responsible processors, a result nobody wants to see.”
In its final Priority Product Work Plan for 2021-2023, the DTSC concluded that ‘listing lead-acid batteries as a Priority Product is not likely to further enhance protection to human health’.
“This outcome is the right one and recognizes that lead batteries are critical to meeting America’s energy storage needs and are already well regulated,” said BCI executive vice president Roger Miksad.
“The industry’s highly successful closed-loop recycling system and investment in new technologies and innovations also means that lead batteries hold the promise of delivering safe, sustainable energy storage in the future.”
Miksad thanked DTSC staff on behalf of the industry for the ‘dedication and care’ they had put into their review of lead batteries over the past five years.