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Recycled lead is a valuable commodity and for many people in the developing world the recovery of car and similar batteries (ULABs) can be a viable and profitable business. As urban centers in the Global South become more populated the confluence of high unemployment rates, with increased car ownership, have led to a proliferation of informal ULAB reconditioning and recovery activities.
Soil containing lead compounds can turn to dust and become airborne, enabling the lead compounds to be easily inhaled or ingested in a variety of ways.
Acute lead poisoning can occur when people are directly exposed to large amounts of lead through inhaling dust, fumes or vapors dispersed in the air.
The challenges of ULABs are recognized by the industry and by the Basel Secretariat, who administers the relevant Convention. Since July of this year the BC government and the Call2Recycle have implemented a system that now includes non alkaline batteries. Now you can bring your batteries to Vancouver Battery Corp and we can send them off to be recycled. Therefore, the market for reclaiming secondary lead has been growing, especially in developing countries. These are often conducted by economically marginalized members of society, needing an additional source of income, but without any understanding of the risks involved. Most often the battery acid, which contains lead particulates, is haphazardly dumped on the ground, waste pile or into the nearest water body. However, chronic poisoning from absorbing low amounts of lead over long periods of time is a much more common and pervasive problem.

In some countries, the recycling systems have become formalized and are more or less well regulated. Many developing countries have entered the business of buying ULABs in bulk in order to recycle them for lead recovery. The informal process of recovering secondary lead from the ULABs includes breaking the batteries manually with an axe.
As the lead plates are melted, lead ash falls into the surrounding environment, collects on clothing, or is directly inhaled by people in close proximity.
Children, in particular are often exposed to lead when playing on the waste furnace slag and handling rocks or dirt containing lead, while engaging in typical hand-to-mouth activity, as well as by bringing objects covered with lead dust back into the home. Lead can enter the body through the lungs or the mouth, and over long periods can accumulate in the bones. However, in many poorer countries, there is a large informal component alongside the established, larger recyclers. These ULABs are often shipped over long distances for recycling, typically from the industrialized countries that produce, use, and then collect the spent batteries for reprocessing.3 Currently ULAB recycling occurs in almost every city in the developing world, and even in some countries in rapid transition. In many cases, informal battery melting is a subsistence activity, and undertaken in homes (even in the kitchen), using archaic melting operations to recover and sell the secondary lead to the larger processers. The most common route of exposure for children is ingestion, as lead dust often covers clothing, food, soil and toys. Health risks include impaired physical growth, kidney damage, retardation, and in extreme cases even death.

ULAB recycling and smelting operations are often located in densely populated urban areas with few (if any) pollution controls.
Despite efforts by government agencies and the industry to bring safer and more efficient practices into this stage of the recycling process, ignorance of the risks of lead contamination combined with a lack of viable economic alternatives has led to the systemic poisoning of many poor populations throughout the developing world.
Lead poisoning can lead to tiredness, headache, aching bones and muscles, forgetfulness, loss of appetite and sleep disturbance. The project focuses on ending endemic exposure to lead from improper ULAB recycling through education, remediation of legacy contaminated soils, developing new responsible policies on appropriate management of ULAB, and either formalizing the ULAB collection or providing other sources of income for the informal sector operators.
This is often followed by constipation and attacks of intense pain in the abdomen, called lead colic.5 Extreme cases of lead poisoning, can cause convulsions, coma, delirium and possibly death.
Children are more susceptible to lead poisoning than adults and may suffer permanent neurological damage. Women that are pregnant and become exposed to lead can result in damage to the fetus and birth defects.

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