Lead usage during this same timeframe is up 26 percent, according to the most recent federal data, largely due to not just lead battery manufacturing but also ammunition production.
Lithium-ion and other lead-free battery technologies are also growing in scope, but so are lead batteries for vehicles – including electric vehicles (EVs), which typically use lead batteries much larger than those used in conventional vehicles.
Clarios, the world's largest lead battery company, has launched a campaign in light of all this that aims to quell public fears about "green" lead batteries. According to the company, lead is perfectly safe and effective, even though historically it is known to damage the brain.
Even low-level lead exposure can damage a child's brain. And when that child grows up, he or she could end up becoming less productive and able to navigate society.
A 2010 report from the Pew Center on the States found that lead poisoning throughout the United States economy has accounted for more than $190 billion worth of lost earnings – this is substantial.
More recent evidence published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) in 2021 reveals that lead is also damaging to the cardiovascular system – this based on "clinical, toxicological, and experimental evidence."
In 2018, a study published in The Lancet Public Health found that every year, more than 400,000 deaths occur that are attributable to lead exposure. Nearly three times the number of people who die every year from alcohol poisoning die from lead exposure.
(Related: Some brands of balsamic vinegar are tainted with lead – is yours affected?)
In an attempt to clean up lead's image, Clarios, in partnership with the International Lead Association, are trying to mislead the public into believing that the "safe and responsible use of lead" is an important part of "achieving a sustainable and low-carbon future."
Considering human beings are made from carbon, that statement makes sense in that with enough lead being used in consumer products, the future really is "low-carbon" in the sense of being low-human.
In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for the first time in nearly 30 years, updated its ambient air lead standard to accommodate the growing lead industry. That same industry is also pressuring the EPA to remove lead from its six criteria air pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act.
In 2022, industry associations pushed back on both U.S. and European efforts to update environmental and occupational lead regulations. Their goal is to minimize the regulations surrounding lead to support further industry growth.
Due to existing regulations, much lead battery disposal takes place in other countries, including in Mexico where lead waste from the U.S. often gets dumped. Mexico currently has an air standard for lead that is 10 times more lenient than that of the U.S.
"These tactics are not unlike what we have seen from the tobacco industry, which has fought to exempt e-cigarettes from government regulation, funded scientists to publish favorable research and attempted to influence and fund U.N. agencies," reports The Defender.
"To counter these efforts, we must recognize the continuing influence of the lead industry and insist on greater transparency. Nonprofit organizations and governments must adopt comprehensive disclosure requirements and ensure that public health recommendations and policies are free from industry financial or other influences."
More related news coverage can be found at HeavyMetals.news.
Sources for this article include: