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How We're Polluting Mexico

We have a difficult relationship with Mexico and politicians in the Southwest are trying to get elected by using campaign rhetoric that stresses keeping out Mexican immigrants--especially those peddling drugs across the border. While they may be harming us, we are also harming them in a way that the average American has never heard of: We are sending spent batteries that have been turned in for recycling to Mexico, where their lead can be extracted by crude methods that are illegal here. This exposes workers and local residents to dangerous levels of lead.

This is a fairly new business, which is the result of strict new EPA regulations on lead pollution, which make domestic recycling more expensive. However, companies are still allowed to send these batteries across the border, where enforcement is weaker.

In the December 8th edition of the New York Times, Elisabeth Rosenthal writes: "Spent batteries house up to 40 pounds of lead, which can cause high blood pressure, kidney damage and abdominal pain in adults, and serious developmental delays and behavioral problems in young children because it interferes with neurological development. When batteries are broken for recycling, the lead is released as dust and, during melting, as lead-laced emissions. "Residents who live near the (recycling) plant said they had been told by the government that the ground water was contaminated with lead, and they tick off maladies they attribute to lead exposure."

We need to face the fact that while we resent the pollution blowing into the US from China, we are doing the same sort of thing by sending these batteries to Mexico.

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