Hazards of Lead Acid Battery: Acid spillage & Contamination
Lead acid batteries are the most common large-capacity rechargeable batteries. They are very popular because they are highly reliable & almost 100% recyclable. Lead acid batteries are extremely economical also, and this makes the battery indispensable source of electrical power for automobiles, electrical vehicles, forklifts, marine and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).
Lead acid batteries are usually filled with an electrolyte solution containing sulphuric acid. This is a very corrosive chemical (pH<2) which can permanently damage the eyes and produce serious chemical burns to the skin. Sulphuric acid is also poisonous, if swallowed. The lead alloys found in batteries are also harmful to humans and can seriously damage the environment.
When working with battery acid, the following precautions must be taken:
1. Wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically splash-proof goggles, acid resistant lab coat or apron, safety shoes and rubber gloves. A face shield must also be worn when refilling batteries with electrolytes.
2. Keep handy a bucket of cold water near to your work area. Water mixed with little amount of caustic soda (baking soda) is a good alternate to neutralise any accidental acid spillage or leakage from battery.
3. Use non-metallic containers and funnels.
4. Use extreme care to avoid spilling or splashing the sulphuric acid solution
Characteristics of lead acid battery electrolyte (35% H2SO4 / 65% water)
In case of accidental spillage of electrolyte form lead acid battery
1. Contain the spill with absorbents such as universal pads, hazmat pads, sand, earth or vermiculite.
2. Remove the absorbents once it has soaked up the acid/electrolyte.
3. Clean up spilled acid safely with an acid neutralizer and then with large volumes of water to rinse the area.
4. Safely dispose of any contaminated material as chemical waste
5. For any large amount of electrolyte spillage contact local authorities of pollution board.
First Aid Measures
• Contact with skin
1. Flush the contaminated area, as quickly as possible, with gently flowing lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes; if any irritation persists, repeat flushing.
2. Under running water, remove contaminated clothing, shoes and other leather goods (e.g., watchbands, belts); discard any contaminated clothing, shoes, etc.
3. Seek medical treatment if required.
• Contact with eyes
1. Immediately flush the contaminated eye(s) with gently flowing lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes while holding the eyelid(s) open.
2. If any irritation persists, repeat flushing and seek medical treatment immediately
Disposal of Lead Acid Battery
Heavy metals found in lead acid batteries are toxic to wildlife and can contaminate food and water supplies. Sulphuric acid (electrolyte) spilled from lead acid batteries is corrosive to skin, affects plant survival and leaches metals from other landfilled garbage. Therefore, lead acid batteries are considered as hazardous waste and shall not be placed into regular garbage. Even though the battery components are recyclable, vented lead acid batteries shall not be disposed-off in dustbins/trash-can. Used lead acid battery must be returned to authorised battery dealers / designated collection centres / registered recyclers only.