CEC Secretariat Launches Independent Study on the Environmental Hazards of Transborder Lead Battery Recycling

The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has begun an independent examination into the environmental and public health issues associated with the transboundary movement of spent lead-acid batteries across North America. This study will include examination of the recent increase in transboundary shipments of spent lead-acid batteries within North America for the purposes of recovery and recycling of lead for remanufacture. Factors to be examined include the concern that, in addition to global market forces, differing costs of compliance with environmental and health regulations may be affecting decisions on where to locate certain recycling activity within our three countries.

Lead is a persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic substance that can cause developmental harm, especially in children. Even in small doses, exposure to lead dust and vapors—in lead-contaminated air, water, or soil—has been associated with nervous system impairment in fetuses and young children, resulting in learning deficits and lowered IQ.

The Secretariat’s examination will assemble the most recent information on the flow of spent auto and industrial batteries and examine trade- and compliance-related issues in preparing a comprehensive report to the CEC Council—the cabinet-level environmental officials in each of Canada, Mexico and the United States. The independent report will conclude with recommendations concerning steps to improve the environmental management of spent lead-acid batteries and to diminish the pollution and environmental health effects impacting vulnerable populations adjacent to certain recycling operations, particularly in Mexico.

The CEC Secretariat’s study and report is being prepared pursuant to Article 13 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). This provision allows the Secretariat to prepare an independent report to the CEC Council. In preparing this study and report, the NAAEC Article 13 provides for the Secretariat to draw upon any relevant technical, scientific or other information, including information submitted by the Parties to the NAAEC, the CEC’s Joint Public Advisory Committee, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The results of public consultation among North America’s battery recycling and related industries, communities, NGOs and specialists will be considered in the development of the report and recommendations.

The CEC Secretariat report is expected to be completed in 2012 and a work-plan and schedule of consultations will be published in the near future. Interested persons and organizations are encouraged to contact the Secretariat should they wish to provide any related information and/or to be included in such consultation.