Technological watch

Commentary health risks from climate fix: The downside of energy storage batteries

Energy storage is the key component to almost all technologies arising in response to climate change. Although most lead batteries are recycled, the process as employed in the majority of recycling plants around the world is highly polluting. Lithium ion batteries, considered the most advanced battery for climate solutions, are employed in electric vehicles, solar lanterns, and increasingly in other energy storage applications. These are generally not being recycled as there are no available technologies to economically extract metals in a form that can be used to make new batteries or other high-value products. As the energy storage market is projected to grow rapidly in coming years, we must consider the impacts of increased mining, milling, smelting and recycling of these metals. Much of these materials will be extracted and processed in low and middle-income countries and eventually be recycled in these same jurisdictions with few regulations to protect public health and the environment. Technological responses to climate change must take account of potential health risks inherent in such products.

Publication date: 01/11/2019

Author: Perry Gottesfeld

Reference: Environmental Research, Volume 178

Environmental Research

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2020-07-14