The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will soon prosecute unauthorised Used Lead Acid Battery (ULAB) recyclers as part of a broader action plan to eliminate or reduce lead pollution.
The Agency said it had become aware of the illegal activities of informal and artisanal ULAB recyclers in some parts of the country and warned that their operations threatened the environment and the health of persons who resided in their operational communities.
Addressing a press conference in Accra on Friday, Dr Henry Kwabena Kokofu, Executive Director, EPA, appealed to the public and the media to volunteer information on the activities of the informal ULAB recyclers to support the work of the enforcement team.
He said an integrated approach by all associated government institutions and the private sector was required to address the challenge posed by the handling of ULABs.
Dr Kokofu said the EPA had closed two ULAB recycling facilities for operating without compliance with industry best practices, safeguards for health and safety of workers, and the public and causing Lead pollution.
“There is the need to develop an action plan on lead production and reduction with major industry regulators, including the Ghana Health Service, Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Ghana Standards Authority, Food and Drugs Authority and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assembles,” he said.
Dr Kokofu said the EPA would also institute a joint audit of ULAB facilities with relevant stakeholders to facilitate compliance, monitoring, and enforcement of industry standards.
The EPA’s action plan follows a joint “Declaration Of National Action Against Lead Poisoning” made by the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Pure Earth Ghana and UNICEF.
A recent survey by the GHS and Pure Earth, which compared Blood Lead Levels (BLL) in children aged 1-4 years, living near hotspots of Lead contamination with those living in areas devoid of such hotspots, found widespread Lead exposure and poisoning among the children. The study areas were in the Greater Accra Region and Northern Region.
The BLL study found that, of the 3,227 children tested, 1,725 (53.5 per cent) had levels at 5 micrograms per decilitre (µg/dL) or higher.
Five micrograms per decilitre is the level at which the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends public health action to reduce or eliminate exposure.
Dr Carl Osei, the Programme Manager, Occupational and Environmental Health Unit of the GHS, said health surveillance measures should be instituted urgently for individuals working in ULAB factories.
“This group is not only susceptible to Lead poisoning themselves but may also play a significant role in exposing children in their communities to lead,” he said.
Mr Esmond Wisdom Quansah, Country Director, Pure Earth, said the Organisation was ready to partner state institutions to research and craft policy action to address Lead exposure among the population.