ILA Blog

ILA members continue to deliver reductions in lead exposure ahead of impending new workplace regulatory standards

By Dr Steve Binks

The European Chemicals Agency Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) has recently completed its review of the science on the health effects of occupational exposure to lead in order to provide advice to the European Commission. This activity is part of an ongoing review to update the EU binding occupational and biological limit values that are now over 30 years old.

It seems that the new EU wide regulatory limits that will be adopted in the next few years, will be substantially lower than those currently in place that allow blood lead levels in workers as high as 70µg/dL… and rightly so.

ILA has long recognised that the current regulatory limits do not provide enough protection for workers across Europe. In 2013 we established our own voluntary blood lead reduction programme that goes beyond regulation. It is based upon the concept of continuous improvement, sharing of best practice through workshops, peer to peer dialogue, annual benchmarking and the establishment of a challenging target. The latest is that no employee in an ILA member company should have a blood lead value exceeding 20µg/dL. We have made it a condition of membership of the Association that companies must enrol in the programme and demonstrate year on year improvements in the management of employee lead exposure.

Reducing employee blood lead levels is not easy and it is complicated by the fact that older long-service employees have stored lead in their bodies from past times, when exposure controls were not as good as they are today. Notwithstanding this, we have seen dramatic reductions in employee lead exposures over the last seven years.

At the beginning of our programme in 2013, nearly 2000 workers - that’s 25% of all workers across our member companies - had a blood lead value exceeding 20µg/dL.

There have been year upon year reductions in these numbers since then. By the end of 2019, approximately 800 workers (representing just over 10% of the current membership workforce) had blood lead levels higher than the target. Hands-on support for our members is an important aspect of the Association’s voluntary blood lead reduction programme. In 2019, I participated in an audit of KCM 2000 Group's facility in Plovdiv, Bulgaria to provide input into their workplace lead exposure reduction efforts as they are currently making significant capital investments at the site that will improve lead exposure management. Many companies in our membership no longer have any employees with a blood lead above our voluntary target. By the end of 2018, our programme had delivered a 45% reduction in the number of employees at ILA member companies with a blood lead exceeding the ILA target of 20µg/dL since 2013.

This dramatic improvement has been achieved without drastic reductions in air lead levels measured in facilities and is testament to the fact that an employee’s internal lead level can be reduced without recourse to using prohibitively expensive engineering solutions.

These would be necessary if the current EU binding occupational exposure limit was reduced from 150µg/m3 (the 8-hour total weight average permitted exposure level (TWA PEL)) to the level of 4µg/m3 (8-hour TWA) that RAC postulated. This level postulated by RAC would undoubtably make many facilities uneconomical and further accelerate the damage seen to our sector post-COVID.

Our membership’s focused goal of continually reducing employee lead exposure will no doubt help companies adapt to new prevailing regulatory limits.

Another ILA member H.J. Enthoven & Sons is one of the many who have made it an essential part of their mission:

“HJE is proud to demonstrate a continual reduction in blood lead levels in our workforce... As a member of the International Lead Association, which sets blood lead exposure limits for the industry membership, we take part in the ILA’s biennial blood lead workshops. These are a great opportunity for the industry to come together and share best practice in meeting these critical limits” Mark Ashmore, H. J. Enthoven & Sons

You can read more from Mark, on the many innovative ways they have stepped up to the challenge here.

The collective action encouraged through participation in the ILA workplace lead exposure reduction programme has contributed greatly to enhancing the health and wellbeing of employees that are delivering the closed loop recycling process for lead batteries, and other lead containing products, that is held up by many as the exemplar of a successful circular economy.

In over 30 years of employment in roles in the field of health, safety and latterly regulatory affairs, I have to say that one of my greatest achievements has been the establishment of the ILA employee lead exposure reduction programme. The programme has been embraced by or members and has delivered that rare win-win scenario in which employees, employers and policy makers have all benefited from actions that have improved workplace standards in lieu of having an effective regulatory driver.



ILA Blog

ELBC is back: same conference, new setting - 21/07/2020

By Dr Andy Bush From my first ELBC in Prague back in 1998 I’ve seen the event grow and change over time, along with the industry.  … Continue Reading

Lead’s role in the sustainable energy transition - 26/06/2020

To celebrate EU Sustainable Energy Week, read on for seven ways that lead is enabling the EU’s sustainable energy transition. 1. Driving the electric vehicle (EV) … Continue Reading

The EU needs to implement intelligent chemical policy rules to generate a sustainable economic bounce-back - 26/05/2020

By Dr Steve Binks As the EU seeks to support member states and boost chances of a speedy and sustainable economic recovery it must be bold … Continue Reading

Playing our part: how the lead and lead battery industries are supporting communities in the face of COVID-19 - 27/04/2020

By Dr Andy Bush   Our industry along with businesses across the world are facing unprecedented challenges amid the COVID-19 crisis. Many of our companies are working … Continue Reading

Global alliance to promote responsible lead battery manufacturing and recycling - 21/01/2020

By Dr Steve Binks One of the hallmarks of a modern and responsible global industry is its ability to work collectively to take steps to continuously … Continue Reading

The year ahead: ILA’s Dr Andy Bush looks ahead and sets out the agenda for 2020 and beyond - 01/01/2020

By Dr Andy Bush There will be no let-up in the pace of change facing our industry in 2020, but we have never been in a … Continue Reading

Investing in sustainable lead production is the real green deal - 16/12/2019

By Dr Andy Bush   Coming hot on the heels of the EU’s Green Deal announcement, new investment in sustainable lead production in Bulgaria is helping ensure … Continue Reading

Forty years and a lifetime's achievement - 04/12/2019

One of the lead industry’s most understated stalwarts has received a lifetime achievement award in India, 40 years to the day after starting his career.  Mark … Continue Reading

Improving battery recycling in Ethiopia - 03/12/2019

As the economy of the land-locked east African country continues to thrive, the International Lead Association’s (ILA) Brian Wilson is advising companies and government officials … Continue Reading

Innovation continues at Boliden’s Bergsöe plant - 14/11/2019

By Fredrik Kanth, Boliden As one of Europe’s largest recyclers of automotive lead batteries in Europe, our lead smelter at Boliden Bergsöe has been upgraded to … Continue Reading

The impact of ILA during the European Week for Safety & Health at Work - 25/10/2019

By Dr Steve Binks It’s the European Week for Safety & Health at Work - #EUhealthyworkplaces. A core part of ILA’s mission is to encourage continual … Continue Reading

Industry committed to improving recycling standards worldwide - 09/09/2019

For more than two decades the International Lead Association (ILA) has been supporting the lead battery recycling industry with technical expertise advising businesses, governments and … Continue Reading

Ensuring the environmentally sound, safe and sustainable recycling of used lead batteries is a joint effort - 05/09/2019

It is a pivotal time for the global lead and lead battery industries. As the world moves towards a more sustainable, responsible, and environmentally-sound future, … Continue Reading

Innovative ways to manage lead exposures at H. J. Enthoven & Sons - 20/08/2019

 By Mark Ashmore (H. J. Enthoven & Sons, United Kingdom)  As legislation inevitably catches up with the science of human health effects, what are the challenges … Continue Reading

Our man in the field… closer to home - 05/08/2019

Brian Wilson ILA’s battery safety and recycling expert Brian Wilson has exchanged the jungles of Colombia and the recycling plants of Nairobi for the streets of … Continue Reading

Socrates’ view on lead in a Circular Economy - 29/07/2019

By Annelies Malfliet, KU Leuven If generation were in a straight line only, and there were no compensation or circle in nature, no turn or return into … Continue Reading

Industry must work together to defend its future - 26/06/2019

By Dr Andy Bush Our industry is at something of a turning point as we look ahead, which is exactly what we did at the 21st International … Continue Reading

Coming together for a sustainable future for the lead industry - 31/05/2019

By Dr Andy Bush With just two weeks until Pb2019, ILA is readying itself to welcome over 150 delegates at the premier event for analysis and … Continue Reading

Europe needs a new industrial strategy in which to champion batteries - 03/04/2019

By Dr Andy Bush Concerned by China, the EU is rapidly looking for a new industrial strategy to match the perceived power and influence of a … Continue Reading

Global recycling day: how lead and lead batteries support green growth - 18/03/2019

By Dr Andy Bush   One of the pressing questions for all businesses grappling with how to protect the earth’s natural resources and environment for the long … Continue Reading

Socrates and the philosophy of the circular economy - 11/03/2019

By Lisa Allen, REACH Manager THE EU has published an update on its progress towards becoming a truly circular economy, and it reads a bit like this: … Continue Reading

Promoting and supporting best practice recycling in Nairobi, Kenya - 11/03/2019

By Brian Wilson   ILA’s responsible battery recycling expert Brian Wilson is in Kenya, primarily to attend the upcoming United Nations Environment Assembly, where he will make … Continue Reading

In Europe lead batteries will help charge a low carbon future - 19/02/2019

By Dr Andy Bush With elections around the corner, Europe is not just facing one year of political upheaval, but decades of significant transformation as it … Continue Reading

As climate change tops the list of concerns at Davos, governments must move quickly to back battery technologies - 24/01/2019

By Dr Andy Bush As global decision makers consider the state of the world at their gathering in Davos, climate change and environmental concerns feature in … Continue Reading

The year ahead promises change and new opportunities - 01/01/2019

By Dr Andy Bush As we enter a new year it will without doubt be a significant period of new challenges and opportunities - and change … Continue Reading

Innovation is the key to tackling climate change - 03/12/2018

By Dr Alistair Davidson AS politicians and experts gather in Poland to consider how to tackle global warming, battery experts are continuing to see how innovation … Continue Reading

Microgrid experiment is part of global battery energy storage bid to boost electrification - 09/11/2018

By Dr Alistair Davidson ON a university campus in rural Missouri, a partnership project between industry and academia is paving the way for homes to adopt … Continue Reading

Lead batteries provide the blueprint for circular economy and sustainability goals - 31/10/2018

By Dr Alistair Davidson Today we celebrate World Cities Day, a UN designated day for the recognition and celebration of urbanisation worldwide, with the motto ‘Better … Continue Reading

The European Battery Alliance is one year old; it is time to embrace all battery technologies - 15/10/2018

By Dr Andy Bush   This month marks the one-year anniversary of the European Battery Alliance (EBA). With energy storage in Europe increasing by 49% in 2017, … Continue Reading

How lead batteries help achieve a greener world - 25/09/2018

Dr Alistair Davidson Last week, Zero Emissions Day focused the world’s attention on the goal of reducing emissions and encourages and celebrates opportunities to achieve this … Continue Reading

Solar power and lead batteries energise the Navajo Nation - 23/08/2018

Dr Alistair Davidson In one of the most sun-drenched regions of North America, ALABC member company Crown Battery is helping deliver a sustainable, renewable energy storage … Continue Reading

The EU is short-circuiting its battery plans - 27/06/2018

Dr Andy Bush ONE of the most high-profile EU Commissioners (and forthcoming candidate for the EU presidency) Maroš Šefčovič, has been in Washington D.C., US, speaking … Continue Reading

A plan for all seasons - 21/05/2018

Dr Andy Bush   THE vast legislative juggernaut that is the EU moved up a gear this week with the latest announcement of its package of measures … Continue Reading

Our man in Colombia - 15/05/2018

Brian Wilson   CALI is a thriving city in the north-west of a South American country once renowned for its reputation for drug cartels and conflict.   Times have … Continue Reading

Letter from America: the heat is on - 10/05/2018

Dr Andy Bush   I HAVE spent a week deep in the Arizona desert with the US’s leading battery manufacturers discussing the opportunities and threats facing the … Continue Reading

Revolutionary spirit energises Boston - 02/05/2018

Dr Alistair Davidson   AS the birthplace of the American revolution it was fitting that Boston, Massachusetts, should host a conference about a very different, but no … Continue Reading

Something fishy’s going on in Sweden - 25/04/2018

Dr Andy Bush   The European Union is currently consulting on a proposal which could, if supported, restrict the use of lead metal in products.   This would be … Continue Reading

Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing? - 23/04/2018

Dr Steve Binks   Businesses welcome good regulation, but sometimes large organisations such as the EU are faced with the left hand not always being aware what … Continue Reading

Follow the star in the East - 03/04/2018

Dr Alistair Davidson   SAUDI ARABIA has signalled another dramatic step in its transformation from being an oil state to a renewable energy empire, by investing $200billion … Continue Reading

A bright future for lead - 29/03/2018

Dr Andy Bush   I spoke at two conferences last week, one organised by analysts from the commodities group CRU, the other an event for Metal Bulletin. … Continue Reading

Lead batteries: essential energy for a greener world - 16/03/2018

Dr Andy Bush   The huge increase in demand for safe and reliable batteries to store energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind heralds a … Continue Reading

China forges ahead in energy storage using advanced lead batteries - 15/03/2018

Dr Alistair Davidson   One of my early impressions as I tour China’s vast industrial heartlands is the country’s growing demand for electricity from renewable sources to … Continue Reading
Steve Binks_photo

Please complete the following details to download the Lead BLM Tool