Monday, October 7, 2013

Leaden externality

Although lead acid batteries don’t often come up in conversation, these items are fundamental to a commuting lifestyle and play a role in the day to day life of almost every American family. The disposal and recycling of these types of batteries is the topic of an important debate. As many as 4.5 billion pounds of lead acid batteries are exported by America every year, with a large number headed to Canada or Mexico. The job of handling these batteries pays well but comes with extreme health risks. Recently the CEO of RSR Corp., David Finn wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency calling for the ban of these exports. Government regulations in Canada and Mexico as far as dealing with the waste are far less strict than they are in America. Particularly in Mexico, entire communities are suffering from higher levels of lead in drain water and soil. These people are dealing with the costs of a process in which they have no benefit. Recycling plants in the United States are better funded and more closely watched, but as recently as last spring an Exide plant in Vernon, California was closed after a high levels of lead were found in the surrounding soil.
It is the responsibility of the companies that produce these batteries to see that they are recycled and disposed of correctly. A full on ban of exports isn’t necessary, but the EPA should find a way to hold companies accountable for hiring cheap smelters outside the country. Keeping in mind that even recycling plants held by the bounds of the Federal government can’t get it right tells us that these companies are more focused on production than the environmental hazards. If there were more of an incentive and accountability for American companies to be more conscious of the health of the workers, the community and the planet, this problem could be fixed.
--Steven Brand

No comments:

Post a Comment