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Mercury exposures during the recycling/reclamation of household-type alkaline batteries.
Reh C; Kang D; Herrera-Moreno V
Appl Occup Environ Hyg 2001 Nov; 16(11):993-1005
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) from the Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology Program of the Texas Department of Health (TDH). This request centered on TDH's concern that employees at a recovery facility were exposed to hazardous concentrations of mercury (Hg) during the recycling/reclamation of household-type alkaline batteries (e.g., battery sizes AAA. AA, C, D, and 9-volt). The facility in question initially recycled/reclaimed alkaline batteries, zinc/carbon-potassium hydroxide batteries (railroad batteries), and lithium batteries. Lead-acid batteries were also collected at the facility, but these were shipped to another company for reclamation. During this study, the process was redesigned to recycle only alkaline batteries. The NIOSH investigators have documented a serious Hg exposure health hazard associated with battery reclamation/recycling processes. These exposures produced high urine Hg levels and CNS and respiratory symptoms that may be Hg-related. Changes in the process produced a significant increase in the workers' Hg exposures and urine Hg levels, and the respirator program was not protecting workers from inhalation exposures. There is also a possibility that workers' homes are being contaminated with Hg because workers wear their work clothing home and do not shower before leaving the workplace.
Battery-manufacturing-industry; Mercury-poisoning; Urinalysis; Biological-monitoring; Occupational-exposure; Heavy-metals; Respiratory-system-disorders; Central-nervous-system-disorders; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Personal-protective-equipment; Protective-equipment
Issue of Publication
Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
Page last reviewed: May 5, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division