Lead Battery Saftey information

Ensuring SafeTy

Lead batteries have a proven track record of safety in manufacturing, shipping, diverse applications and recycling. While the lead battery industry is the world’s largest consumer of lead, air emissions of lead from lead battery production are less than 1% of total U.S. lead emissions. Historically, the main sources of human lead exposure have been from leaded paint, leaded gasoline, leaded pottery, lead water pipes and lead solder – not lead batteries.

Lead battery manufacturing facilities operate in controlled environments with elaborate networks of ventilation and negative air pressure systems to capture any lead particles that might otherwise escape to the outside environment. These particles are captured in fine particle air filters where they are collected and properly recycled. These advanced air safety systems are made possible by the experience gained from many years of manufacturing lead batteries worldwide. In addition, voluntary agreements between lead battery manufacturers and OSHA have systematically reduced worker exposure to lead hazards. The sulfuric acid used in lead battery electrolyte is the most widely used industrial chemical in the world. As with lead, many innovations have been developed to handle and even completely recycle sulfuric acid battery electrolyte in a safe and environmentally friendly method. Sulfuric acid is non-flammable and is not considered toxic beyond its obvious corrosive hazards.

Innovative recycling facilities have been developed to recycle virtually 100% of a lead battery’s components, and industry-supported regulation ensures that these products are returned to appropriate locations for reuse. This applies for the newer advancements in lead battery technology.

Newer battery technologies have a more difficult time achieving the recycling advances and developing reclamation processes comparable to those established by the lead battery industry. The innovative processes for recycling lead batteries and the facilities that support them have progressively advanced over the years to become one of the greatest recycling success stories in the global marketplace. Along with innovative recycling and environmental practices, shipping of both flooded and sealed lead batteries has been managed safely and efficiently during the long history of lead battery use. Shippers of non-spillable lead batteries are provided exceptions to regulations when proper testing and marking requirements are met, making shipping even more efficient yet just as safe. Collection, transportation and handling of spent lead batteries are well defined and regulated by the US government and by most states, often following the model legislation provided by BCI. Lead battery lead has long been recycled safely with a sustained recycling rate of 99%.

Lead batteries have a proven track record of safe operation in diverse applications.

Lead batteries safely service diverse applications such as automotive, aviation, marine, medical, nuclear, motive power, standby, uninterruptible power supplies, energy storage, load leveling, renewable energy, security, emergency lighting, electric and hybrid electric vehicles, and many more. Charging and discharging of lead batteries at rates from a few milliamps to many thousands of amps is performed safely on a daily basis. They operate safely and reliably at widely ranging ambient temperatures and in every geographical location, from hot desert conditions to cold arctic environments. Sealed VRLA battery designs have made the use of lead battery technology even safer. With these non-spillable designs, the chances of acid leaking on to the user or the vehicle are minimal. Also, in the unfortunate event of a car accident, no acid will spill out if the battery is cracked or punctured. The lead battery chemistry is abuse tolerant, versatile, and a safe and reliable battery technology.

Lead batteries are the most commonly used rechargeable batteries.

The reliability of the lead battery has made it the most commonly used rechargeable battery technology for the widest range of applications. Some have demonstrated calendar lives of up to 30 years in standby applications (e.g. Bell Labs round cell standby battery technology).

Their reliability holds true in a wide range of applications that require variable rates and depths of discharge, wide temperature ranges, partial state of charge conditions, high charge rates and many other fluctuating conditions. Recent innovations in raw materials, battery designs and manufacturing processes continue to demonstrate the superior reliability of lead battery technology.

How Lead is Controlled at Battery Plants

Air Filters and Scrubbers

To keep microscopic particles of airborne lead emissions to a minimum, manufacturers and recyclers use high-efficiency air filters and wet scrubbers to filter plant air before it is released into the atmosphere. The filters are inspected and replaced regularly. The filters also are equipped with alarms, and the process is shut down or re-routed should a filter tear or break.

Clean Water

Manufacturers and recyclers capture and treat process water to keep lead out of streams and rivers. The water is tested before it is released to be certain it meets clean water standards.

Clean Air

At recycling plants, air monitors are installed at the perimeter of each property to make sure any lead in the air is below the allowable limit. The limit is .15 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air, three month rolling average. This is an extremely conservative limit. To illustrate just how stringent this requirement is, OSHA says a worker inside a plant may be safe even if exposed to 50 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air every day.

Work Practices

Children can be exposed to lead when a parent who works at a lead plant carries dust home on shoes or work clothes, or in the worker's hair. OSHA regulations require workers in high-lead-exposure areas of the plant to leave work clothes and shoes there and to shower and wash their hair before going home. They also require workers in high-lead areas of the plant to wear a respirator, a device that filters lead particles out of the air a worker breathes. Education programs train workers to wash thoroughly before eating or smoking during lunch or breaks, and to practice other habits that safeguard their health.


Plants have a regular program of exterior vacuuming or washing down paved areas and capturing and treating rainwater runoff. Vehicles that transport lead products typically are hosed down before leaving a facility so that any dust on tires or the vehicle body is not carried to public roads.