January 13, 2022: Mahfuzar Rahman, Bangladesh director of the environmental NGO Pure Earth, wrote a piece in The Financial Express in Bangladesh on January 2 calling for an enhanced global effort to eliminate lead poisoning.
He also called on the US to ratify the Basel Convention, which restricts the transfer of lead-containing waste and recommends its proper handling.
“However, the convention has not been ratified by the US, which is a large exporter of lead-containing waste, and has failed to eliminate widespread transfers of this waste to low and middle-income countries,” he said.
Rahman said lead poisoning ‘is one of the most pervasive, well-established and preventable environmental hazards globally’, and that, more than 100 countries’ populations are ‘exposed to lead at an alarming level’.
He estimates that 674,000 deaths can be attributed to lead exposure each year, and more than 600,000 cases of child brain disability.
While not blaming lead batteries for all lead poisoning incidents, Rahman mentions the recycling of lead batteries, which contributes to ‘substantial exposures to the vicinity of the surrounding community’.
He also said that lead exposure comes from food, ceramics, cans, cookware and the proximity to hazardous waste sites.
Rahman’s article comes after many media outlets reported in December on the issues facing Gaza in the Middle East with old lead batteries piling up.
More than 25,000 tonnes of discarded batteries are piling up in the territory, according to reports, in a region where residents rely on them because of years of chronic power outages.
With no export option, residents are forced to discard the batteries outside, where they leak sulfuric acid into the soil that travels down to the water table.
In November, Pure Earth was handed $8 million from the charity assessment organization GiveWell to work on reducing lead exposure in low and middle-income countries.
The grant should expand the NGO’s work in identifying likely sources of lead exposure, implanting interventions and conducting analyses of blood lead levels to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions.