Children living near battery manufacturing units in the developing world had 13 times more lead traces in their blood than US children, says a new study reported in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.
It comes in the wake of reports of mass lead poisoning around battery plants in China and the recent shutdown of 583 of its facilities.
Lead poisoning damages the central nervous system, the kidneys, and the cardiovascular reproductive systems, besides leading to low haemoglobin percentages. In children, it can retard learning, make them hyperactive and even cause violent behaviour.
The researchers, using data from studies published between 1993 and 2010, also found that battery industry workers in the developing world had three times higher blood lead levels than their US counterparts.
“Children and workers in developing countries face significant risks of lead poisoning, which can cause lifelong health problems,” said Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of Occupational Knowledge International (OK International) and study author.
“Without major improvements, we expect that lead poisoning cases will continue to increase as the industry grows,” the OK International quotes him as saying.
The battery industry uses about 80 percent of the global lead output. The demand is being fuelled by voracious demand for batteries in vehicles, solar power systems, cellular phones and for back-up to power supply.
The World Health Organization estimates that 120 million people are over-exposed to lead–approximately three times the number infected by HIV/AIDS–and 99 percent of the most severely affected are in the developing world.