Author: Paul Ploumis
29 Oct 2014 Last updated at 01:16:43 GMT
SAN DIEGO (Scrap Monster): IBM, AT&T, and Sprint are refusing to export used lead batteries to Mexico for recycling due to pollution and health concerns in that country previously documented by Occupational Knowledge International (OK International) and Fronteras Comunes.
The companies use massive amounts of lead batteries in server farms and cell phone towers for backup power and sell their used batteries to recyclers.
Harmful lead exposures from inadequate recycling procedures in Mexico were highlighted last year in a report titled "Hazardous Trade?" by the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) under NAFTA. To continue addressing this issue, the CEC is holding a meeting in Mexico City today to help improve standards for the recycling industry.
The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and other media also exposed the impacts of extensive pollution from Mexican facilities due to poorly regulated lead battery recycling.
"As more U.S companies stop doing business with Mexico due to the country's weak environmental laws, it will ultimately undermine the economy." said Perry Gottesfeld, Executive Director of OK International.
"The Mexican government must improve our environmental laws and enforcement because more and more U.S. companies will refuse to have work done here," said Marisa Jacott, Director of Comunes Fronteras.
"Regulating extremely hazardous industries is not just good public health policy, but it is also important for economic development." she added.
"Although Mexico introduced a draft regulation to reduce lead emissions from recycling plants over six months ago, it has yet to be finalized. We are calling on SEMARNAT to immediately issue the regulation as an emergency public health measure." said Jacott.
"After the U.S. updated the ambient air standard for lead for the first time in 30 years, we witnessed a huge increase in lead battery exports going to Mexico." said Gottesfeld. He added, "Additional regulation is needed to protect workers and children residing near these recycling plants in Mexico."
Although almost all lead batteries are recycled, processing requires melting down the batteries which causes lead particles to become airborne. Communities around recycling facilities are known to be more highly exposed to these hazardous emissions.
It is estimated that over $10 million dollars of trade with Mexico have been halted due to this action on the part of IBM, AT&T, and Sprint.
Last year a group of investors in the U.S. filed resolutions with AT&T and IBM to ask them to stop exporting used lead batteries to Mexico and to adopt comprehensive policies to address the environmental and health impacts from lead battery recycling. Other companies including Amazon, Google, and Verizon that are heavily reliant on lead batteries are also being pressured to act by shareholders.
Lead poisoning is one of the most serious environmental health threats to children and is a significant contributor to occupational disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 240 million people are over-exposed to lead (approximately five times the number infected by HIV/AIDS) and 99% of the most severely affected are in the developing world. At least 80% of all lead production goes into batteries.
Courtesy: OK International