US Battery Recycling Is Poisoning Mexico's Kids
American batteries should be recycled domestically, say critics
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2011 12:29 AM CST
Updated Dec 9, 2011 3:29 AM CST
"If you want to make a lot of money you can just smash the plastics, throw the acid wherever you want, and sell the lead at a high price," a lead trade researcher says.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Recycling is becoming a very environmentally unfriendly word when it comes to industrial and automotive batteries, the New York Times finds. Close to a fifth of old American batteries now end up in Mexico, where the lead is extracted using crude methods in plants with low or nonexistent safety standards. Health workers in areas near recycling plants say they are seeing signs of chronic lead poisoning in children. A soil sample taken from a schoolyard near a Mexico City schoolyard found lead levels five times the limit considered safe in the US.

The amount of lead Mexico exports to China has tripled in three years to 150 million tons, while in the US, lead recyclers—who operate under strict environmental controls—are being forced to lay off staff because of a shortage of old batteries. Environmental campaigners say big American companies should ensure their batteries are recycled domestically. "If we export, we should only be sending batteries to countries with standards as strict as ours, and in Mexico that is not the case," says the director of Occupation Knowledge International, a group devoted to reducing lead exposure.