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Protecting People: Lead Battery Safety Information
While the battery industry is the world's largest consumer of lead in the world, the chief sources of lead in the environment—and lead exposure to people—have been transportation, paint, and storage and preparation of water and food. In other words, leaded gasoline, leaded paint, lead glaze on pottery, lead in water pipes and fixtures, and lead solder. Association with these products and their issues has led to several lead battery myths, making lead batteries one of the most misunderstood products of our time.
There are only two ways for the body to take in lead—either by ingestion or inhalation. Lead is not usually absorbed through the skin or hair.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) threshold for adult workers in battery plants is 50 micrograms of lead per deciliter of whole blood. A worker who tests at 50 micrograms will be moved to a different job in the facility until his or her blood lead level falls. The employee will be counseled and monitored to keep the blood level below the OSHA threshold.
Through a voluntary agreement made with OSHA in 1996, BCI members have been working to reduce the 50 microgram medical removal threshold to 30 micrograms by December 31, 2016 to continue lead battery safety efforts. BCI is also working in conjunction with the International Lead Association and EUROBAT (the European battery industry association) to achieve the same levels at 30. Blood testing is incredibly important for people who are regularly exposed to lead.
As a result of a voluntary industry effort, BCI members have achieved substantial reductions in the blood lead levels of their workers, whose levels now average far less than this 50 microgram target. This success reflects continuing capital investment and emphasis on employee work practices and education.
Battery manufacturers and recyclers have education programs and health maintenance programs for their employees, backed up by regular blood lead testing efforts. Regular monitoring of blood lead levels allows a physician to track the success of lead-reduction programs. Test results are a critical tool in the employees' health management programs.
In the workplace, ventilation systems and technology help protect workers. But good work habits and good hygiene are equally powerful protectors for adults in the workplace.
Performance Enhanced Through Creativity: Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Dramatic improvements in the performance of lead batteries have come about not through the use of rare or expensive materials, but through the creative use of the raw materials that lead battery manufacturers have been using for decades. The novel use of standard, readily available materials has enabled engineers to achieve the technological breakthroughs that are making a new generation of affordable, efficient and environmentally safe lead batteries available for use in hybrid electric vehicles, the electric power grid, and other energy storage programs.
The Availability of Lead Provides a Lower Market Cost
An established infrastructure of lead mining and mature manufacturing has made lead batteries one of the most cost effective energy storage technologies. Lead batteries come out on top as the lowest cost of energy and power output per kilowatt-hour.
Well-established and stable mining, together with years of perfecting the recycling process, has created a dependable supply source. In fact, 74% of lead used in manufacturing new lead batteries comes from recycling.
Lower Cost to the Motive Power Market
With almost 65% of the forklifts manufactured today powered by lead batteries, it’s not hard to see that lead-based technology is very compatible with today’s motive power needs. One of the main reasons lead products are so widely used is cost efficiency. A highly developed and mature manufacturing process brings “economies of scale” to its mass production. Years of advancing manufacturing equipment to deliver higher production rates continue to optimize the cost savings.
Learn more about lead batteries and motive power in our brochure: Facts About Lead: Motive Power
A Proven Track Record of Safety
Over its more than 150 year history, lead-acid battery technology has achieved superior safety and reliability. These characteristics have made it the most commonly used technology in rechargeable batteries, for the widest range of applications.
Learn more about lead batteries safety and reliability in our brochure: Facts About Lead: Safety and Reliability