SLAB Watchdog Praises Dallas Morning News Series

Dangers of Lead Contamination from Recycling Not a Thing of the Past, But Continue in Mexico

ALEXANDRIA, Va.--()--Today, Diane Cullo, Director of SLAB Watchdog, commended the Dallas Morning News for its investigation into lead contamination from recently closed and legacy smelting sites near Dallas. The multi-part report detailing the effects of improper lead recycling reinforces the need for a concerted effort to stop rampant Spent Lead Acid Battery (SLAB) exports to Mexico.

“The series, The Burden of Lead, by Valerie Wigglesworth and the Dallas Morning News staff is an excellent example of the long lasting effects of lead contamination. This series, along with USA Today’s recent Ghost Factories investigation provide compelling proof that the health and environmental threats from lead contamination continue long after smelters close their doors,” said Diane Cullo, SLAB Watchdog’s Director. “Unless SLAB exports to Mexico are stopped, we are subjecting numerous Mexican communities to decades of lead contamination.”

The Dallas Morning News’ investigation uncovered significant lead contamination tied to the recently closed Exide lead recycling plant in Frisco and the long closed RSR facility in West Dallas. One of the most troubling aspects of the report is that lead contamination like that found in Frisco and West Dallas isn’t a thing of the past. On the contrary, despite significant cleanup operations overseen by state and federal authorities, harmful levels of lead pollution can still be found decades later.

“Compared to Mexican recyclers, the facilities in Dallas investigated by the Morning News and their cleanup efforts could be considered cutting edge,” Cullo said. “Study after study has found that Mexican facilities operate under practically no regulatory control whatsoever. It’s the Wild West of dirty recycling and its happening just across our border with batteries from our cars and trucks.”

Last year, an estimated 754 million pounds of SLABs were exported from the United States to Mexican recyclers operating under virtually no regulatory control. These facilities are known to have lead air emissions some 20 times higher than those of current domestic recyclers and are not required to undertake employee blood lead screening or other worker protections considered routine in the United States. These recyclers operate on an uneven playing field, offering lower recycling costs by operating outside of acceptable environmental and worker safety limits. A recent Commission on Environmental Cooperation study on this issue noted that none of the Mexican facilities recycling American SLABs would be approved for a license in the United States.

Large international corporations like Johnson Controls have taken advantage of the cost differential associated with weaker emission standards by collecting millions of SLABs every year for sale to cheap, Mexican recyclers. By doing so, they pollute Mexican communities, skew the waste battery market and reduce the domestic supply of SLABs for American recyclers.

“Mexican exports put smaller domestic operators at a competitive disadvantage and when faced with either improving their facilities at a significant cost or closing, many companies, like Exide, choose to avoid that cost by just shutting their doors,” Cullo said. “This means the domestic lead recycling industry and the American workers they employ are being lost to cheap inferior Mexican recyclers at a time when they could be investing in better pollution controls.”

“In order to improve their facilities and comply with federal regulations, each and every domestic recycler will need to make significant capital investments,” Cullo said. “But that is practically impossible if their battery stock is siphoned away by Mexico. Simply put, every SLAB sent to Mexico is a missed opportunity for domestic secondary lead smelters to fund improvements to their facilities.”

SLAB Watchdog would rather see American recyclers improving their facilities and employing Americans than see SLABs sent to Mexico where they are recycled in conditions that are far worse than anything found in Dallas,” Cullo added. “It is time to stop destroying the environment and threatening Mexican communities by ending the practice of exporting SLABs and supporting clean, responsible American recycling.”

For more information on the issue of SLAB exports, please feel free to contact Diane Cullo by phone at 703-244-5891, or via e-mail at

SLAB Watchdog is committed to the safe and domestic recycling of spent lead-acid batteries (SLABs) and operates off of four basic principles: (1) Recycling of SLABs must occur in the United States by facilities that utilize the most advanced technologies that minimize environmental damage; (2) Transportation of SLABs must comply with federal regulations regarding the loading and bracing of SLABs to avoid damage and toxic spills; (3) Collection facilities should only use battery brokers who sign a memorandum of agreement committing to use domestic recyclers; (4) Federal, state and local governments must establish protocol to ensure that all SLABs generated by their vehicle fleets are recycled at domestic facilities.

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SLAB Watchdog
Diane Cullo, 703-244-5891

Release Summary

“Compared to Mexican recyclers, the facilities in Dallas investigated by the Morning News and their cleanup efforts could be considered cutting edge,” Cullo said


SLAB Watchdog
Diane Cullo, 703-244-5891