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Gaza’s old battery pileups present a risk for the environment and health.
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Gaza’s old battery pileups present a risk for the environment and health.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP), Virtually every Gaza Strip household relies on batteries in order to keep their home running. This is a result years of constant power outages.

These batteries have helped to mitigate one crisis. They are also causing another crisis as large quantities of old and used batteries accumulate in an area that lacks the ability to safely dispose them.

There is a real risk that these batteries are randomly collected and stored in the open, not in warehouses, according to Mohammed Musleh, an official of Gazas Environment Authority.

He stated that the most serious threat to the battery’s integrity is the release of sulfuric acid-containing liquid into the soil and water aquifer.

The Gaza Environment Authority estimates that there are approximately 25,000 tons of batteries lying around in the overcrowded coastal territory. There are no recycling facilities available in Gaza, and Egypt has imposed a strict blockade on shipping batteries abroad.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency used batteries pose a number of threats to the environment and public health. While different types of batteries may contain dangerous metals, such as mercury, lead, or cadmium; some batteries can catch on fire.

These risks are especially acute for Gaza, where the health-care system is already in crisis and the environment is already in a difficult place. High saline levels from overextraction have rendered almost all of Gaza’s water unusable.

Israel bombed Gaza’s only power plant in 2006 during fighting and imposed a blockade on Egypt in the following year, after Hamas militants seized control of the strip from other Palestinian forces. The result was a daily blackout lasting at least eight hours. This was punctuated by longer outages that can last days during winter storms and conflicts.

This has made batteries an integral part of daily life for the 2 million residents.

A hazardous waste unit in Gaza City is set up to safely dispose off old batteries. Ahmed Abu Abdu, the head of the hazardous waste unit, claims that very few batteries reach him. Instead, a small private business has emerged.

Every day, donkey-drawn cart or car collectors travel around Gaza calling out loudspeakers to anyone who wants to sell their old batteries. Old batteries can fetch as much as $2 per piece depending on their size.

Khaled Ayyad, one of many merchants who buy the batteries, is one of many. For eight years, he collected the old batteries and stored them in a warehouse located in northern Gaza.

Ayyad’s goal is to export the batteries and make decent profits.

He said that the Israeli side allowed them (batteries), into Gaza. It must then let them go.” “We can sell them in factories in Israel, Europe and around the world.

However, exporting batteries is still prohibited and Ayyad now faces a new dilemma: He has approximately 500 tons of batteries stored in his warehouse.

He cannot resell them, export them or dump them. In addition, he has been paying storage charges. So, he sent a message out to Hamas: We request that the Egyptian officials speak with us about exporting them to Gaza.

There is a precedent. In recent years, trade cooperation between Egypt and Hamas has been boosted by a crossing in Rafah. It is used primarily to transport goods such as construction materials, fuel, and tobacco products into Gaza. It can also be used to ship scrap metal to Egypt.

Ayyads warehouse is concrete, but most other storage locations are outside, which can lead to spillages of hazardous materials directly into the soil.

Although no studies have been done on the impact of lead exposure on the environment, research by a Gaza neurologist and an environmental science expert in 2013 found that children exposed to lead from people who use discarded batteries could be at risk.

Hamas authorities have since 2017 banned the importation of secondhand batteries in an effort to reduce danger.

Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights based in Gaza issued a 2018 warning about the danger of batteries.

Hussein Hammad, of the rights group, said that there is a problem. The batteries have now started to affect human right: the right o to health, the right o a clean environment, and the o right to life.

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