Environmental Problems Regarding Electric Forklift Batteries
The electric forklift is usually considered more stable and safe than gas and diesel powered internal combustion engines. Both gas and diesel engines pose a fire risk and emit harmful exhaust toxins. The electric lift truck is not without is hazards though. They have rechargeable batteries as their source of power, and batteries can present risks to personal safety as well as to the natural world. There are risks associated with the manufacture, use, storage and disposal of rechargeable batteries for forklifts.
The majority of forklift batteries are made by placing lead plates into a solution of sulfuric acid. These are referred to as lead-acid rechargeable batteries. Lead is toxic that, when used in manufacturing processes, poses hazards to the quality of water because of runoff and drainage. Once lead enters a water system it could lead to a variety of health problems to human beings and can even be fatal. The sulfuric acid utilized in lift truck batteries is harmful to skin and could cause severe burns. Sulfuric acid also produces noxious fumes which could cause damage to human beings and the environment.
Normal Use and Storage
Lead-acid batteries can produce hydrogen gas as a chemical byproduct when recharging. When recharging batteries for any kinds of vehicle or a lift truck, sparks, smoking, flames and heat must be kept well away from the recharging place. The combustible hydrogen can result in an explosion if ignited by heat or flame.
Sulfuric acid in the batteries can result in chemical burns if it touches the bare skin. This is not a problem during normal use of the battery, but if a battery is punctured or damaged, the acid could spray or leak, potentially burning anyone who is nearby.
Incorrect disposal of lead-acid batteries should always be avoided. These batteries must be recycled correctly or reused in new batteries so that the sulfuric acid could either be neutralized or recycled. To prevent the serious environmental consequences of improper disposal, all lead-acid batteries sold or bought within the U.S. include a "core charge" which will only be returned if the used battery is turned in.