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MONTREAL, Canada, February 8, 2012 (ENS) – The transboundary movement of spent lead-acid batteries in North America has environmental and public health consequences to communities in Mexico that are the subject of a new investigation by the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, CEC. The Commission was established by Canada, the United States and Mexico to implement the environmental side accord to the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA. Lead is a persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic substance that can cause developmental harm, especially in children.
The citizen advisory group said it seeks to ensure that the CEC takes action to foster compliance with the criteria for environmentally sound management described in that document and to have a report ready for the July meeting of the CEC Council – the three cabinet-level environmental officials from Canada, Mexico and the United States.
About 20 million such batteries crossed the border in 2011, according to United States trade statistics, In September 2011, more than 60 18-wheelers full of old batteries crossed the border each day, trade records show. The CEC said its new study will gather information on the recent steep increase in transboundary shipments of spent lead-acid batteries within North America for recovery and recycling of lead for remanufacture, including where and how they are being shipped.
Investigators will determine the current status of relevant environmental and health regulations, implementation and enforcement. They will probe indications that differing costs of compliance with environmental and health regulations may be affecting decisions on where to locate recycling activities within the three countries.
The CEC said the new study and its recommendations will be developed through research and consultation with affected communities, industry representatives, nongovernmental organizations, government agencies from all three countries, the Joint Public Advisory Committee and other experts. The recommendations are intended to promote opportunities for proper management of spent lead-acid batteries so that human health and the environment are protected in all three countries. Local residents use railroad tracks to cross a heavily flooded area where car battery recycling was done until neighborhood children started dying of lead poisoning.
The mysterious illness killed 18 children in this town on the fringes of Dakar, Senegal's capital, before anyone in the outside world noticed. The dirt here is laced with lead left over from years of extracting it from old car batteries. The tragedy of Thiaroye Sur Mer gives a glimpse at how the globalization of a modern tool — the car battery — can wreak havoc in the developing world. As the demand for cars has increased, especially in China and India, so has the demand for lead-acid car batteries.
Both the manufacturing and the recycling of these batteries has moved mostly to the Third World. Thiaroye Sur Mer is a town of 100,000 where yearly rains leave people wading through knee-deep water inside their cement-block houses.
For years, the town's blacksmiths extracted lead from car batteries and remolded it into weights for fishing nets. Demba Diaw, a 31-year-old teacher, holds a picture of his 4-year-old daughter who died from lead poisoning. A block from Diaw's house, the illness struck his niece, two-year-old Raminatou, the child Coumba Diaw carried on her back.
About 950 people have been continuously exposed to lead dust in the neighborhood, and many children show signs of neurological damage, according to WHO.
Demba Diaw holds up lead extracted from a spent car battery as he explains how lead pollution killed his 4-year-old daughter in September.
Although North America and Europe continue to be the world's biggest buyers of cars, fewer and fewer car batteries are made there. Mohamadou Diagne, a scrap metal trader, says he hasn't bought any lead since the poisonings became known. An Indian buyer about a half-mile away from the town still has a large yard full of battery casings and sacks of lead pellets. A 6-year-old boy suffering from neurological impairment due to lead poisoning is attached by a cord to his hospital bed as he undergoes long-term detoxification at a hospital in Thiaroye, Senegal, on Sept.
Workers there confirm that they ship the lead and batteries out of the country but won't give further details. The government has stripped the top layer of dirt from the roads with earthmovers and is paying the hospital bills of anyone sickened by the lead.
The World Health Organization says there's still so much lead in the ground that the area is toxic. In a criminal lineup of the world’s metals, lead would be the dull, inoffensive-looking suspect. So why is humble lead even a criminal suspect, especially when it’s done everything we’ve asked?
To better understand our fraught relationship with this useful but poisonous element, we look back at 15 intriguing, surprising, and even horrifying moments from our long history with lead. Abundant and found close to the Eartha€™s surface, lead was naturally one of the first metals to be mined by humans. Because of leada€™s supposed medical propertiesa€”and the nice black powder it makesa€”it was a key part of ancient Egyptian kohl makeup.
Ancient Chinese metalworkers alloyed bronze out of copper, tin, and lead from ores mined from the Yangtze River valley.
The toxic results led one scientist, lead specialist Alan Woolf of Boston Childrena€™s Hospital, to speculate that the Shang princess-general Fu Haa€™s mystical visions were hallucinations caused by a€?encephalopathy due to lead poisoning.a€? Unlike other toxins, lead quickly escapes from the blood into the brain.
When scientists examine ancient ice samples from Greenland, they find a thick layer of lead dust from a massive surge in worldwide pollution during the rise of Athens.
Roman cast-lead pipe with inscription of the Imperial Freeman Procurator Aquarum, the official in charge of the water supply, 100a€“300 A.D.

For the roughly 400 years corresponding to its peak, the Roman civilization produced 60,000 to 80,000 tons of lead a yeara€”a rate that wouldna€™t be matched until the Industrial Revolution.
To satisfy this hunger for lead, nearly 140,000 Romans worked every year in lead mining and processing.
While global lead production plummeted in the West after the Roman Empire fell, the metal continued to be enthusiastically mined in the East by the Byzantines. Chemically speaking, lead is a great choice for paint: Lead compoundsa€”from white lead carbonate to yellow lead chromatea€”resist cracking, degradation, and moisture.
A startlingly white face became fashionable in two very different places at nearly the same time: 17th-century Edo Japan and 16th-century Elizabethan England.
At the same time, women in England were painting their faces white with a mixture of white lead and vinegar called ceruse. While outbreaks of a condition known as colica Pictonum had stricken wine drinkers since the Roman Empire, it was only in 1697 that German physician Eberhard Gockel linked the colic to wines sweetened with sapa, the grape syrup boiled down in lead vessels. The Franklin expeditiona€™s quest to find an Arctic sea route was doomed for many reasons, and lead poisoning was just one. Since the 19th century, children in Queensland, Australia, had been coming down with lead poisoning, but doctors couldna€™t figure out how.
In the 1920s, American doctors caught up with their Australian colleagues and started linking child poisonings to lead paint on toys, cribs, and woodwork. In the 1920s, engineers at General Motors figured out that adding tetraethyl lead to gasoline boosted its octane rating and allowed them to develop better engines. But the tide started turning in 1965, when studies uncovered leada€™s effects on the public. Surprisingly, the first rechargeable battery was developed more than a century and a half ago.
First developed in the 1980s, quantum dots are incredibly tiny chemical shells built around a core of cadmium or lead. When they did — when the TV news aired parents' angry pleas for an investigation, when the doctors ordered more tests, when the West sent health experts — they did not find malaria, or polio or AIDS, or any of the diseases that kill the poor of Africa. So when the price of lead quadrupled over five years, residents started digging up the earth to get at it.
About 70 percent of the lead manufactured worldwide goes into car batteries, which are also used to power TVs and cell phones in some areas. Between 2005 and 2006, four waves of lead poisoning involving batteries were reported in China.
It's a dangerous, messy process in which workers crack open the batteries with a hatchet and pull small pieces of lead out of skin-burning acid. They offered to buy bits of lead by the bag for 60 cents a kilogram, says Coumba Diaw, a middle-aged mother of two. The deaths came, one after another, over the five months from October 2007 through March 2008. Doctors at the local health clinic kept seeing the same symptoms with no response to treatment and started running more tests. On a side street in Thiaroye Sur Mer, a man points out a pile of sacks full of lead pellets that have sat against a wall for months through the rainy season. Manufacturing has moved where labor is cheaper and environmental protections regulations are more lenient, or at least more leniently enforced. For the past 6,000 years, lead has been vital to civilization—from lead pipes that brought clean water to thousands in Rome to lead batteries that power millions of cars.
Ancient civilizations regarded lead as more than a useful metal: Chinese sources recommend brewing elixirs with lots of lead, while Ayurvedic texts in India recommend preparing drugs with the metal. Even today, kohl often contains leada€”which is why the Food and Drug Administration warns consumers against using this ancient cosmetic.
The lead certainly benefited the metalworkers: It lowers the melting temperature of the entire alloy, making it easier to work with. Once there, it wreaks havoc by interfering with enzymes vital to brain cells and even reacts with the brain to produce damaging chemicals.
Physicians realized that people who drank water contaminated with mine runoff developed gouta€”a side effect of lead-poisoned kidneys, which could no longer filter gout-causing uric acid out of the blood.
In Japan, wealthy women painted their faces white with white leada€”which sent their bone-lead levels through the roof. Despite cerusea€™s known side effectsa€”hand trembling, baldness, and occasionally deatha€”the painted white face remained popular until the Victorian era. The colica Pictonum inflicted sufferers with headaches, stomach pains, and constipation, followed by paralysis, blindness, insanity, and even death. When scientists recovered and examined the crewa€™s remains in 1981, they found that the skeletons had 10 times more lead than local Inuit bones. However, scientists believed that most children would recover just finea€”until a depressing but influential study in 1943 showed that lead permanently damaged childrena€™s brains. Consumer Product Safety Commission finally ruled that house paint couldna€™t contain more than 0.06 percent of lead, more than half a century after Great Britain, Cuba, and Tunisia had banned lead house paint. GM marketers would later call lead a€?a gift from God,a€? and tetraethyl lead would be used for the next 50 years in American gasolinea€”despite early concerns. In 1975, the Environmental Protection Agency started the gradual removal of lead from gasoline over the next 25 years.

By tweaking their size, scientists can change the color of light the dots emit when exposed to light or electrical current. And our mistakes stay with us: Instead of degrading, lead accumulates in ice, in soil, and in us.
Since there are many online resources with lists of possible symptoms, I have posted links to some of those below (instead of reinventing the wheel.)A A  Here is a link to a page that discusses the symptoms my children have had since their exposure. EVEN though we lived in a pre-1978 home that had just been repainted!) it was two months later and he tested positive with a BLL 16. The World Health Organization says the area is still severely contaminated, 10 months after a government cleanup.
And in the Vietnamese village of Dong Mai, lead smelting left 500 people with chronic illnesses and 25 children with brain damage before the government shut it down three years ago, according to San Francisco-based OK International, which works on environmental standards for battery manufacturing. It took just an hour of sifting to make what she did in a day of selling vegetables at the market.
He shows a picture of his daughter that he carries with him, and the plastic casing of a lead battery.
He says someone ditched the sacks there when they heard the lead was dangerous, and they were missed by the cleanup operation.
But Demba Diaw says the government just wants to profit from the lead in their earth, and Coumba says this is her only home. The Egyptian medical treatise, the Ebers Papyrus, even calls for powdered lead to treat eye problems. But lead didna€™t benefit the Shang royals who made ancestral offerings using large bronze ding vessels and drank rice wine out of ceremonial bronze goblets. Before they could mint silver coins, however, the Greeks had to melt the lead out of the silver orea€”which was contaminated with as much as 300 parts lead to every one part silver. Over a lifetime of drinking this leaded wine, a Roman could suffer damage to the nervous system, develop anemia, and suffer from infertilitya€”which is why lead has been blamed for toppling the Roman Empire. But its use exacted a lethal cost: The skeletons of slaves and criminals condemned to mine copper and lead in southern Jordan had up to 70 times more lead than people who didna€™t mine. After a lifetime of licking brushes and breathing paint fumes, famous artists such as Michelangelo and Caravaggio developed a€?paintera€™s colica€? and even a€?paintera€™s madnessa€? from lead poisoning. Outbreaks of the remarkably similar a€?Devonshire colica€? offed English cider drinkers throughout the 18th century, until Sir George Baker traced the cause to lead-lined cider presses and the lead weights added to casks to sweeten the cider.
The source of the lead remains controversial, but the main suspects are either the lead solder used to seal the crewa€™s tinned food, or the lead pipes used on the expeditiona€™s ships.
When these soft, fast-moving balls struck humans, they tore apart flesh and splintered bone. Lockhart Gibson proposed that the lead paint used in homes was the sourcea€”after he examined a toddler whoa€™d eaten the sweet chips flaking off lead-painted walls. Some of the first workers to manufacture the additive became floridly psychotic; at least five died. Since the phase out of leaded gasoline and the banning of lead house paints, the average blood-lead levels in American children have dropped more than 87 percent. Most American lead pollution originates now from battery manufacturing, which can raise the blood-lead levels of plant workers and children who live near the plants. Recently, scientists have been figuring out how to take advantage of these nanoparticles in energy-efficient displays and highly efficient solar cells.
Given our appetite for using lead in everything from piping to bullets to quantum dots, ita€™s no surprise that this element continues to wreak toxicological havoc. Young men have increasingly taken to trying to sneak into Europe aboard large canoes with outboard motors.
Diaw, a 31-year-old teacher at an Islamic school, thought it was malaria and took her to the hospital. Compared with the homicidal efficiency of white arsenic, it takes spoonfuls of black lead powder to off a victim—who would definitely notice the sweet taste. In 2010, scientists figured out that the acidic wine leached toxic amounts of lead out of the bronze. Paintings by and of these Renaissance masters often show the limb-wasting and gout caused by their chronic exposure to lead paints. Because lead irreversibly harms childrena€™s developing brains, scientists speculate that the Shogunate collapsed because of its brain-damaged elite. Gockel and Baker were among the first to identify lead poisoning in people who didna€™t mine or work with lead. For a long time, manufacturers argued that lead was only poisonous at the high levels experienced by sloppy, careless workers. Lulled by its dull, gray, unassuming helpfulnessa€”so unlike fluid mercury or homicidal arsenica€”we keep inviting it into our blood, our brains, and even our bones.

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