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

Chennai : The Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) and Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur researchers are conducting a study to find out the appropriate policy instruments that can help India to reduce lead pollution.

The research groups joined forces to look collectively 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 environment, but also the health workers engaged in the recycling process”, a release from IIT-M said today.

However, the low operational cost of this manoeuvre makes it still an attractive choice.

It said 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.

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.

The release said 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 crores 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.