In a tragic case of ‘unintended consequences’ lead disposed of in the US is poisoning Mexicans. According to the New York Times:
The spent batteries Americans turn in for recycling are increasingly being sent to Mexico, where their lead is often extracted by crude methods that are illegal in the United States, exposing plant workers and local residents to dangerous levels of a .
The rising flow of batteries is a result of strict new Environmental Protection Agency on lead pollution, which make domestic recycling more difficult and expensive, but do not prohibit companies from exporting the work and the danger to countries where standards are low and enforcement is lax.
EPA rulings seek to keep lead out of waste dumps and from seeping into the groundwater. But companies are allowed to ship used batteries to Mexico to be ‘recycled’ in areas where no regulations exist. Lead is extremely toxic in high doses, especially to infants and young children who can develop behavior and developmental problems from ingesting too much.
How does this happen? Legislation doesn’t say how and where the batteries can be recycled, leaving that up to voluntary programs of the manufacturers.