IIT Madras, IIT Kanpur researchers study policy tools to reduce lead pollution

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Vishu Verma
Assistant Manager
Updated on Sep 6, 2021 17:35 IST

Researchers looked at the problem of lead recycling in India as lead pollution can harm the mental and physical health of people and can contaminate the environment. 


The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM) and Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK) researchers are conducting a study to find out the appropriate policy instruments that can help reduce lead pollution in India. The research groups jointly looked at the problem of lead recycling in India as lead pollution can harm the mental and physical health of people and can contaminate the environment. 

The workers who recycle lead in an informal setting break the lead-acid batteries in a fashion causing spillage of acid and lead dust in the soil and surroundings. Also, the lead is melted in open furnaces due to which poisonous gases reach the air. This way of lead recycling is not only harmful to the environment but also the health workers engaged in the recycling process.  

However, the low operational cost of this manoeuvre makes it still an attractive choice. The presence of the informal sector and its undesirable consequences are more predominant in developing countries where the costs and lenient regulations and laws have helped the unregulated sector to grow at a faster pace. 

Reducing tax on regulated recycling sector can reduce lead pollution

The study suggested that the policy guidelines such as reducing the tax on the regulated recycling sector and providing subsidies to regulated recycling and remanufacturing sectors reduce lead pollution from lead-acid battery recycling. Another important finding was that a very high subsidy to the formal remanufacturing sector can lead to the shutting down of both regulated and unregulated recycling sectors. 

Prof RK Amit, Department of Management Studies, IIT Madras, said, “The insufficiency of primary lead sources to satisfy the demand makes the recycling of used batteries necessary. However, the unscientific way of recycling by the unregulated sector poses serious environmental and health threats due to the high amount of lead excretion. We studied to quantitatively assess the impact of different policy instruments on shifting the recycling business from unorganised to the organised sector in India.” 

27.5 crore children have higher exposure to lead: UNICEF 

A report by UNICEF titled ‘The Toxic Truth: Children’s exposure to lead pollution undermines a generation of potential’ estimated that approximately a third of the world’s children, including 27.5 crore of Indian children, have higher exposure to lead as their blood lead levels have 5 micrograms per deciliter or more - levels which are hazardous to their health. Though high lead levels are equally harmful to grown-ups, the high levels of lead in children are known to reduce IQ, decrease attention span, cause anaemia, kidney and liver disorders, among other issues in children. 

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About the Author
Vishu Verma
Assistant Manager

Vishu is a writer, an artist, a cat and an ardent music lover. She loves to read, sketch and explore new places in her leisure time. She has nine years of experience in print media.


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