Dust and vapor generated during the recycling processes of batteries may contain toxic metals such as cadmium, cobalt, nickel, lithium, lead… The French National Research and Safety Institute conducted a biomonitoring study on metal-exposed workers from battery recycling industry in France. A population of 86 workers were included, both operators and administrative staff. Operators were distributed into five similar exposure groups: sorting, dismantling, treatment, polyvalent, and maintenance.
High levels of urinary metals collected from exposed workers were measured, testifying the high levels of inhalable metals in their working environment.
Actually, urinary cadmium concentrations were punctually higher than 5 µg/g of creatinine, the French biological limit value. Lithium, cobalt, and manganese were also detected in the urines from exposed workers. This study showed that workers from treatment (pyrometallurgy and distillation furnaces) and maintenance groups were the most exposed, compared to administrative staff and workers from sorting group. It increases our knowledge on the composition of the exposures in this recycling sector, and demonstrates the need of improving preventive measures such as the optimization of the fumes extraction at source and the separation of work areas in order to limit the diffusion of contamination. These results suggested a high risk for the health of the concerned workers.
These results were recently published in Waste Management.
Photo ©Ogier Hanser, INRS