Soil contamination from lead battery manufacturing and recycling in seven African countries

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Abstract

Lead battery recycling is a growing hazardous industry throughout Africa. We investigated potential soil contamination inside and outside formal sector recycling plants in seven countries. We collected 118 soil samples at 15 recycling plants and one battery manufacturing site and analyzed them for total lead. Lead levels in soils ranged from < 40–140,000 mg/kg. Overall mean lead concentrations were ˜23,200 mg/kg but, average lead levels were 22-fold greater for soil samples from inside plant sites than from those collected outside these facilities. Arithmetic mean lead concentrations in soil samples from communities surrounding these plants were ˜2600 mg/kg. As the lead battery industry in Africa continues to expand, it is expected that the number and size of lead battery recycling plants will grow to meet the forecasted demand. There is an immediate need to address ongoing exposures in surrounding communities, emissions from this industry and to regulate site closure financing procedures to ensure that we do not leave behind a legacy of lead contamination that will impact millions in communities throughout Africa.

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