Homes & Property

January 23, 2018

Hazardous contamination lead battery recycling plants found in seven African countries – Study

…Facilities in Lagos, Ogun states potential sources of lead pollution

By Kingsley Adegboye

An international study has found extensive lead contamination around lead battery recycling plants in Nigeria and six additional African countries, revealing that the contamination levels in soil ranged up to 14 per cent lead with average concentration of two per cent lead.

The study further revealed that lead battery recycling is a growing hazardous industry throughout Africa, adding that in addition to vehicle applications, lead batteries are used to store solar and wind power, and are in demand for backup power for computers, cell phone towers, and home use, stressing that lead pollution at these sites poses significant health risks to the public.

The study published in a journal, Environmental Research, said: “Soil contamination from lead battery manufacturing and recycling in seven African countries tested areas comprised 16 authorised industrial facilities in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Tunisia.  In Nigeria, SRADev Nigeria collected and analysed a total of 21 soil samples from lead battery recycling factory sites in Lagos and Ogun states.

“Samples were tested in EMSL Analytical, Inc, USA. Lead levels around lead battery recycling plants in Nigeria ranged up to 29,000 parts per million (ppm), outside the facilities tested and 140,000 ppm inside the facility tested. Fifteen (71 per cent) of the samples were greater than 400 ppm or the USEPA limit for soil. Levels below 80 ppm are considered safe for children.

“There are no industry-specific regulations controlling the release of lead from these recycling plants or to protect workers and children in surrounding communities,” said Leslie Adogame, Executive Director of SRADev Nigeria.

Adogame added: “Few countries in Africa have adequate regulations governing the operations and emissions from lead battery recycling. Lead battery manufacturing and recycling are extremely hazardous. Industries and companies should be required to publicly disclose their air emissions on an annual basis.”

Victor Fabunmi, Programme Officer of SRADev Nigeria, noted that “One of the facilities tested in Ota, Ogun State, is located within approximately 20 metres of a residential district with about 200 inhabitants.” At another facility in Ogijo, Ogun State, waste water run-off from the factory is used to irrigate surrounding farmlands.”

Perry Gottesfeld, Executive Director of Occupational Knowledge International, USA and the lead author of the study, said: “There is an immediate need to limit lead emissions from this industry and to test children’s exposure levels in nearby communities.” He added that many countries including Nigeria, need to develop laboratory capacity to routinely test blood lead levels.

The authors of the study called on governments to ensure that plant operators set aside funds for facility closures to ensure that lead soil contamination is not left behind. One such site around a shuttered lead battery recycling plant in Mombasa Kenya that has never been remediated is responsible for poisoning hundreds of nearby residents since the plant was closed in 2009.

The United Nations Environment Assembly, UNEA, adopted a resolution during its meeting in 2017 calling on governments to do more to control hazardous lead emissions from lead battery recycling.