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Thread: Why Car Batteries Are Dangerous

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Linstrum's Avatar
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    Why Car Batteries Are Dangerous

    The warnings about smelting automotive batteries to recover the lead they contain needs a bit of explanation. Doing so really does have the potential to harm or even kill you and here is why. Maintenance free/low maintenance batteries use calcium metal-doped lead to catalyze the hydrogen gas generated from water electrolysis back into water. That is what makes the batteries low maintenance or maintenance free, you don't need to add water to the cells as often like in the old days. When the battery lead is melted down there is enough sulfuric acid from residual electrolyte trapped in the lead dioxide and lead framework of the battery plates to react with the small amount of calcium metal in the lead alloy. Normally when sulfuric acid (or water) gets in contact with calcium metal it undergoes a rather vigorous reaction that generates hydrogen gas. In and of itself this is no big deal, hydrogen is a simple non-toxic asphyxiant that is also flammable. But the lead alloy used in batteries also contains a bit of antimony and even arsenic to help harden and strengthen the lead to withstand the vibration and general knocking-about batteries have to withstand in order to survive normal automotive use. When hydrogen comes in contact with arsenic and antimony, or compounds of these two elements, the hydrogen reacts to form ammonia analogues called arsine and stibine, AsH3 and SbH3. Both of these are heavy gases and both have the similar characteristic odors of rotting fish. In World War One the Germans experimented with these, along with phosphine, another rotting-fish-smelling gaseous ammonia analogue with formula PH3, as war gases. As such they were highly effective since they are deadly in amounts too small to easily detect. In even smaller amounts that are too small to immediately kill they cause rather painful lung damage that often eventually leads to emphysema and lung cancer.
    So, leave smelting car batteries or using lead smelted from them to professional recyclers. Many folks including myself have successfully smelted batteries and lived to tell about it, but the risk is just too great to mess with the stuff.


    rl371
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    There is no such thing as too many tools, especially when it comes to casting and reloading.
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    Linstrum, F.O.B.C. (member, Fraternal Order of Boolit Casters), alloutdoors.com survivor, and Shooters.com alumnus.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master & Generous Contributor

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    That was a good read. I've pondered on the idea of smelting down truck, tractor and car batteries in the past but after a little research, I discovered it could be very dangerous. It’s best to sell the batteries to a recycler and buy WW with the money.
    If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.
    Samuel Adams

    Sam

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy
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    What about large wet cell telecommunication batteries??

    I know the hazards of automotive batteries, but I have access to several large wet cell telecommunications batteries that are dead and haven't been used in years. I know that the acid needs to be nuetralized, but what kind of hazards am I looking at with the large lead plates in these batteries. The exposed terminals were pure lead.

    Can I drain the nuetrilized acid, soak the lead plates in nuetrilizing agent, then smelt outdoors or is this a bad idea?

    Thanks

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Battery Technology is battery Technology! Use does not change construction. This is why I suggest trucking these thing to a recycler and let them deal with the hazards!

    The money you can get from these batteries will net you a considerable amount of "known" Wheel Weights, you've helped the enviroment and you'll live to tell the tale.

    The above posting is why I advised the fella with the pre smelted batery lead to haul it off as well! Yes the hard work is done but the contaminet remains! each time he melts that stuff he may as well be playing " jacks" on the freeway!

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    Understood!!

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Exclamation jswaff & other advice seekers:

    Please heed the warnings and wisdom of Linstrum and heavymetal.

    Hacksaw the battery terminals for boolit stock. Sell the carcass if allowed in your locale, money made will sweeten your casting pot.... ...

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    All good advice so far!

    Quote Originally Posted by jswaff View Post
    I know the hazards of automotive batteries, but I have access to several large wet cell telecommunications batteries that are dead and haven't been used in years. I know that the acid needs to be nuetralized, but what kind of hazards am I looking at with the large lead plates in these batteries. The exposed terminals were pure lead.

    Can I drain the nuetrilized acid, soak the lead plates in nuetrilizing agent, then smelt outdoors or is this a bad idea?

    Thanks
    I'd still stay away from the telecomm batteries. There are a couple of issues here even if the battery doesn't have any Calcium in it.
    The way I see it, you're dealing with Sulfuric Acid contaminated lead. You may or may not be able to neutralize all of the acid. After being submerged in H2SO4 for most likely a number of years, the acid has migrated into every possible microscopic pore in the metal.
    A quick neutralization with Ammonia or Sodium Bicarbonate mght not get all of the acid. I simply wouldn't chance it. The thoughts of melting and casting lead that may have a hidden corrosive component, and what it means to your pot, loaded ammo, and gun aren't very appealing. The acid theoretically boils at 626 degrees F, but gaseous acid could remain trapped in the alloy.
    In addition to that, fresh battery plates consist of Lead Peroxide (PbO2) and Sponge Lead (Pb).
    Discharged plates consist of mainly Lead Sulphate (PbSO4).
    Batteries that you're going to open up will most likely have most of the Sponge Lead converted to Lead Sulphate, as the batteries you have access to are dead by definition (otherwise, they would remain in service!).
    You're going to generate large amounts of really hazardous waste to try and get just a little lead.
    Do everyone a favor, and trade the battery for either scrap lead or wheel weights.

    Happy Shootin'! -Tom

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy
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    Termials will be removed and batteries scrapped!

  9. #9
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    If you've ever watched that Discovery Channel show called "How It's Made", they have at least one segment on recycling dead batteries--mostly automobile type. Even a cursory glance at this simple look at the process would clue in anyone of any intelligence that this is NOT a process that can be safely duplicated at home. Forget it! According to the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook, Arsine and Stibine gas can be considered injurious at 50 ppm (yes, that IS parts per MILLION), and as little as 10ppm is used to fumigate for mice. Larger concentrations can and probably will be fatal! I'm all for being thrifty and economical, but attempting to recycle batteries at home is NOT one of the ways to do this. Get rid of your junk batteries and get wheel weights, you'll be glad you did!
    lathesmith

  10. #10
    Boolit Bub
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    A small amount of calcium is used to harden the grid plates. These plates are immersed in sulphuric acid. It is used in place of antimony because there is much less gassing when the battery is charged.
    Stibine is formed when compounds containing antimony are brought into contact with hydrogen gas that is just being formed.

    The Marsh test is used to show the presence of antimony, germanium and arsenic and uses this reaction
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsh_test

    The conditions are not the same for a lead acid battery with a small amount of calcium in the grid plates. The calcium contained in the alloy does not react to a significant extent with the sulphuric acid otherwise it would disappear quickly from the grid plates.

    Also interesting is that OSHA does not mention it in their publication:
    http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/lead...ybreaking.html

    Some links :

    http://www.varta-automotive.com/index.php?id=33#a32
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead-acid_battery
    http://www.powerbattery.com/pages/de...aspx?pageid=61
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stibine
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arsine

    Does it mean that I will start recycling car batteries in my back yard?
    The answer is NO. The reasons are that I donít want to cut open batteries with the chance that the sulphuric acid will eat holes in my clothes. I also donít want to neutralize the acid . Not difficult but again messy.
    Quite a significant part of the lead is present as compound, Lead sulphate or Lead dioxide. It is possible to reduce this to lead. A lot of Sulphur dioxide is formed in that process. Nasty stuff.

    Conclusion: Car batteries are not dangerous, but leave recycling to the recycling companies

  11. #11
    Cast Boolits Founder/B.O.B.

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    A rebuttal to your post

    Regards,

    Rich LindstrŲm



    My rebuttal:

    ~:/+\:~:/+\:~:/+\:~:/+\:~:/+\:~:/+\:~:/

    I am the author of this thread. I have worked as a chemist off and on since 1973 when I wasn't working as a geologist, teaching chemistry and math at college, or running a machine shop.

    Interesting article from OSHA about processing car batteries, but I do NOT find it odd that they don't mention anything about stibine and arsine, since the specific processes they talk about do not put the battery recovery operators in any kind of position with the battery components where they will contact stibine and arsine gases. The work is done by commercial OSHA-approved processing methods out of contact with the batteries and the recovery and smelting are done with OSHA-approved commercial equipment and furnaces where the operators are quite deliberately not exposed to the debris and exhaust flue gases generated. The exhaust gases go through a long enough heating process where the stibine and arsine gases are converted back to the respective elemental form, as in the Marsh Test, that eventually become the oxides of antimony and arsenic, again quite poisonous but not quite as deadly as the gases they originated from.

    You obviously spent quite some time researching the battery problem, but you are not understanding what takes place for the generation of stibine and arsine gases in a HOME SMELTING operation. First, the stibine and arsine gases are not generated in DANGEROUS AMOUNTS within a battery when sitting there or it is in use (they indeed are generated but at levels not considered hazardous except after years of daily exposure to extremely large multi-ton size batteries indoors) or being physically dismantled, the poisonous gases are generated only when the lead dioxide is reduced back to lead metal and when the calcium, antimony, and/or arsenic-containing lead mounting plates and hardware ARE MELTED DOWN. That is what releases the calcium metal and antimony IN A REACTIVE STATE into contact with sulfuric acid residues entrained in the lead dioxide/lead sulfate matrix of the battery plates. This small amount of entrained sulfuric acid cannot be washed out since it is both chemically and mechanically trapped in place until the lead backing plates are melted. When melted, the conditions needed for the MARSH REACTION are created, specifically the contact of antimony and arsenic with calcium metal, calcium hydride, and sulfuric acid with hydrogen gas generated from it in contact with the calcium metal liberated by melting, which all in concert generate the stibine and/or arsine gases. As far as generating sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide, the home smelting of batteries does not usually get hot enough to decompose the lead sulfate into lead metal and oxide, releasing the noxious and extremely irritating oxides of sulfur.

    Yes, smelting car batteries at home can be quite dangerous.


    rl406


    Conclusion: Car Batteries ARE dangerous and of no use to us.

    Piet,
    I will allow your post to remain but having seen batteries blow up myself and ruining the vehicle with the acid that was dispersed, looking inside what remained of the battery and seeing little of value it is my conclusion we really have to be looking for the last ball left to cast to save ourselves and our nation to make it viable.
    Boolits= as God laid it into the soil,,grand old Galena,the Silver Stream graciously hand poured into molds for our consumption.

    Bullets= Machine made utilizing Full Length Gas Checks as to provide projectiles for the masses.

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BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
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