KOCHI: Batteries contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment if they are not disposed of properly. Yet, the awareness on this is very low, with the result that most people throw away used batteries carelessly.
The liquid components of the batteries seep through the outer cover into the soil where they are dumped. This can pollute groundwater sources, which ultimately pose serious health hazards to people who drink the contaminated water.
The problem is a cause for concern, according to Kannan Iyer, a senior official of a company marketing lead acid batteries. The danger of pollution could be kept at bay by recycling the used lead acid batteries in proper recycling plants, he said.
"Throwing away batteries in the open is an offence in Japan," according to H. Nakazaki, a top official of a Japanese watch company. Collection boxes are kept at various centres in Japan to collect used batteries, he said in a recent interview.
Lead acid batteries contain lead, which is a toxic metal. Lead poisoning due to consumption of lead particles in food or water can result in problems such as convulsions. Sulphuric acid contained in the used batteries has corrosive properties.
The acid spillage from leaking batteries that are disposed of along with other waste material can cause physical harm. Though sulphuric acid comes under hazardous material category for handling, the batteries containing acid are not handled carefully by the public, mostly due to lack of awareness.
The recycling process of lead acid batteries involves separationof non-metallic components of the battery. The batteries are smelted in special smelters.
The resultant soft lead and alloys are used in making new batteries.
The acid is neutralised before being released into sewer. The non-recyclable, non-hazardous materials are disposed of.
Though environmental issues are highlighted at various forums, the issue pertaining to pollution caused to the environment due to improper disposal of batteries has not been highlighted.
Significantly, a battery manufacturer organised an awareness campaign recently on the issue. The company also launched an initiative to collect used batteries for recycling them