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Environ Res. 2018 Feb;161:609-614. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.11.055.

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

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Occupational Knowledge International, 4444 Geary Boulevard, Suite 208, San Francisco, CA 94118 USA. Electronic address:
University of Nairobi, Chemistry Department in the College of Biological and Physical Sciences, P. O. Box 30197-00100, Nairobi, Kenya. Electronic address:
Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADev), 18, Olorunlogbon street, Anthony village, Lagos, Nigeria. Electronic address:
Association de l'Education Environnementale pour les Futures (AEEFG), 15 rue de Liban La Marsa, 2070 Tunis, Tunisia. Electronic address:
Center for Industrial Studies, Safety and Environment (CEISA), Mozambique, Rua Joseph Ki-Zerbo n° 170, Maputo, Mozambique. Electronic address:
Occupational Knowledge International, 4444 Geary Boulevard, Suite 208, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA. Electronic address:
CREPD, Research and Education Center for Development (Centre de Recherche et d'Education pour le Développement), 3rd Floor, Ecotex Building, Madagascar Quarter P.O. Box 2970, Yaoundé, Cameroon. Electronic address:


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 < 40-140,000mg/kg. Overall mean lead concentrations were ~23,200mg/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 ~2600mg/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.


Lead batteries; Lead battery recycling; Lead poisoning; Lead pollution; Lead soil contamination

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