GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 301-16
Presentation Time: 11:45 AM


HASAN, M. Aziz1, SIKDER, Arif M.2, KABIR, M. Lutful1, JAMAN, M. Hasnat1, UDDIN, M. Reaz1, RASHID, M. Hashibur1, AKTER, Asma3, LIU, Xin-Chen4 and MCCARTOR, Drew5, (1)Department of Geology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh, (2)Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Center for Environmental Studies (CES), Richmond, VA 23284, (3)Department of Geology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, VA Dhaka 1000, (4)Center for Environmental Studies (CES), Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), 1000 West Cary Street, Richmond, VA 23284, (5)Pure Earth, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 860, New York, NY NY 10115,

Informal or artisan recycling of used lead acid batteries (ULAB) in Bangladesh is causing lead (Pb) pollution in soil and water which poses serious threat to health of the workers involved in the breaking and smelting activities as well as to residential communities located near such recycling operations. The process of recycling used batteries primarily includes manually breaking batteries open to remove lead plates and smelting the lead using coal-fired kilns (pits) in open air without any personal protection equipment or pollution control measures.

A team of investigators in Bangladesh have conducted initial site assessments under the global Toxic Sites Identification Program (TSIP) carried out by the Department of Geology, University of Dhaka with technical and financial support from Pure Earth, an international non-profit organization, and identified nearly one hundred fifty contaminated sites where ULABs are recycled informally. The present study focuses on the largest hub of recyclers on an island (sand bar) in the Jamuna River where hundreds of workers operate approximately one hundred informal, open-air lead smelting pits. In dry periods, when the operation runs at full capacity, thousands of used batteries are recycled with an estimated daily output of 100 tons of lead.

Concentrations of lead in top soil at and around the processing site exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) standard for industrial soil (1200 ppm) by orders of magnitude, reaching up to 8% lead at points. The adjacent areas are also highly contaminated, with lead up to several times the US EPA standard for residential and agricultural soils (400 ppm). Soil samples from the lead smelting sites also contain unusually high concentration of Arsenic (As) and Cadmium (Cd) with maximum measured value of 28,528 ppm and 671 ppm respectively.

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