Environmental Issues Regarding Electric Forklift Batteries
The electric lift truck is normally considered more safe and stable than diesel and gas powered IC engines. Both diesel and gas engines pose a fire risk and emit harmful exhaust toxins. The electric lift truck is not without is hazards however. They have rechargeable batteries as their power source, and batteries could present risks to personal safety as well as to the environment. There are hazards connected with the use, manufacture, disposal and storage of rechargeable batteries for forklifts.
The lift truck battery consists of lead plates being placed in a sulfuric acid solution, which are known as lead-acid rechargeable batteries. Lead is toxic which, when used in manufacturing processes, poses hazards to the quality of water because of runoff and drainage. When lead enters a water system it could result in different kinds of health problems to people and could even cause death. The sulfuric acid utilized in lift truck batteries is detrimental to skin and can result in severe burns. Sulfuric acid also produces noxious fumes which can cause damage to the environment and to humans.
Normal Use and Storage
Lead-acid batteries could produce hydrogen gas as a chemical byproduct when recharging. When recharging batteries for a lift truck or any other kinds of vehicle, heat, flames, smoking and sparks must be kept well away from the recharging place. The flammable hydrogen could cause an explosion if ignited by heat or flame.
Sulfuric acid in the batteries can result in chemical burns if it comes into contact with bare skin. This is not a problem during normal use of the battery, but if a battery is damaged or punctured, the acid could leak or spray, potentially burning anybody who is nearby.
Incorrect disposal of lead-acid batteries should always be avoided. These batteries must be recycled properly or reused in new batteries so that the sulfuric acid can either be neutralized or recycled. To be able to avoid the serious environmental consequences of wrong disposal, all lead-acid batteries sold or bought in the U.S. include a "core charge" which would just be returned if the used battery is turned in.