The major use of lead is in energy storage batteries (78% of reported global consumption in 2003). A growing proportion of refined cadmium consumption (81% of the total in 2004) is accounted for by NiCd batteries1.
Inefficient production and recycling operations release considerable amounts of lead and cadmium with both environment and human health impacts.
UNEP, in cooperation with partners, promotes the environmentally sound management throughout the life-cycle of lead and cadmium batteries in ways that lead to minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment. UNEP is seeking to engage with potential partners to develop the technical and financial consortia needed to address this problem and deliver impacts on the ground.
Chemicals Branch collaborates with the International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) and the DTIE International Resource Panel. The IETC’s main function is to promote the application of environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) in developing countries and countries in transition, including a focus on waste management issues. The International Resource Panel was established in 2007 to provide independent, coherent and authoritative scientific assessment on the sustainable use of natural resources and the environmental impacts of resource use over the full life cycle. Panel members are internationally recognized scientists working on several issues, including consumption and recycling. By sharing expertise, we hope to catalyze action and minimize the use of lead and cadmium in batteries.
Recently, the International Resource Panel released a report on Environmental Challenges of Anthropogenic Metal Flows and Cycles, which discusses the impact lead and cadmium have on the environment. The IETC is also coordinating work relevant to lead and cadmium activities (ie, NiCd batteries), including the management of E-waste. Their demonstration project in Cambodia focuses on e-waste management.
1Source: UNEP's reviews of scientific information on lead and cadmium