Dust collection in battery manufacturing is a control that is often overlooked. Battery manufacturing can release toxic dust particles into the air—including lead, nickel, cobalt and aluminum particles. Exposure to these particles can lead to serious health problems for workers like lead poisoning. If these particles settle on equipment, floors or other surfaces, they can also ignite and cause an explosion.

To improve air quality and protect workers, many battery manufacturers use dust collection systems. These systems remove dangerous particles from the air— reducing the risk of exposure and combustible dust incidents.

Below, learn what types of dust battery manufacturing creates, how to remove dangerous dusts with a dust collection system, and how to choose the right system for your facility.

What Dangerous Dusts are Produced When Manufacturing Rechargeable Auto Batteries?

All rechargeable car batteries produce toxic dust when manufactured. They have electrochemical cells with an anode, cathode and electrolyte. There are several types—lead-acid, NiCad (nickel cadmium), NiMH (nickel metal hydride) and lithium ion, but all types use nickel and combustible or toxic metals.

For example, NCA (nickel cobalt aluminum) ion batteries use lithium nickel cobalt aluminum for the cathode, a carbon-based metal-like graphite for the anode, and lithium salt as an organic solvent. When split or pressed, these materials become fine powders that can easily become airborne.

Nickel and cobalt are on the Hazardous Substance List and are regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and cited by ACGIH, DOT, NIOSH, DEP, IARC and EPA. They are also on the Special Health Hazard Substance list because they are carcinogenic and flammable. Their permissible exposure limit (PEL) is .1 mg/m3 averaged over an 8-hour work shift. Aluminum dust is also combustible and can be toxic at high levels. All these metal dusts must be collected from the air, safely contained and disposed of correctly.

What Dangerous Dusts are Produced When Manufacturing EV Batteries?

Most electric vehicles use lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries as a power source. These batteries contain highly toxic materials, including lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and graphite. The cathode is typically created from lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt, while the anode uses graphite. Lithium salt acts as the organic solvent.

Active materials in battery electrodes, such as graphite or lithium cobalt dioxide are processed in powder form, and fine particles become airborne. Dust collections systems should be used that can capture these materials at their source during filling, transferring, and mixing in battery manufacturing and recycling.

What Dangerous Dusts are Produced When Manufacturing Acid Batteries?

Lead-acid batteries use an electrochemical process to produce energy. Metal plates in the batteries come in contact with battery acid to help convert chemical energy into electrical energy.

Lead-based batteries power a wide range of applications across various industries, including the marine, medical and nuclear sectors. These batteries are commonly found in devices such as cars, forklifts and electric wheelchairs.

Many acid battery manufacturing processes create inorganic lead dust, which is extremely toxic to humans.

What Health Hazards Do Dangerous Dusts Cause?

Lithium Dust

Lithium is an active metal used in most auto battery cathodes. Lithium particles are small and can become deeply embedded in the lungs — causing respiratory issues. They are also lightweight, with a density of 0.534 g/cm3. As a result of their weight, they are more likely to become airborne, increasing the risk of inhalation.

Cobalt Dust

Cobalt is commonly used to create battery cathodes and poses a risk to workers if inhaled. According to North Carolina Public Health, chronic inhalation of cobalt dust can cause irritation, wheezing, asthma, pneumonia and fibrosis. Acute cases can even result in hemorrhaging of the lung.

Nickel Dust

Nickel dust is highly toxic to humans — it’s both carcinogenic and flammable. Exposure to nickel dust can harm the lungs, stomach and kidneys. Because nickel is a carcinogen, it can also cause lung and nasal cancer.

Manganese Dust

Manganese dust poses another health hazard. Manganese is used to form the cathodes of lithium-ion batteries and can become airborne during the manufacturing process. If workers inhale this dust, they can develop a neurological condition called manganism. This condition is similar to Parkinson’s disease — its symptoms include trembling, stiffness, and slow motor movement. Manganese dust can also harm the lungs, liver and kidneys.

Lead Dust

Many battery manufacturing processes create lead dust, which is toxic to humans. Lead can be absorbed into the body by swallowing or inhaling. Once absorbed, it circulates though the bloodstream to organs and tissues where it is stored—sometimes permanently. Autopsies have found lead in the human brain, bone marrow, liver, kidney and even teeth.

Lead causes short-term and long-term damage to the body. In the short term, body function becomes impaired, but in the long term, severe diseases can develop. According to the OSHA website, lead is a “systemic poison, which, when taken in large doses, can kill a person in a matter of days.”

The main target for lead toxicity is the nervous system. It can also cause acute encephalopathy to the brain and cardiorespiratory arrest, seizures, coma and death. It can even cause anemia, urinary problems and reproductive problems. Whether lead exposure occurs over a short or long period of time, it’s cumulative. Eventually the amount of lead in the body will be enough to cause sickness or disease.

Lead dust can cause the following health hazards if not contained:

  • Impaired blood production
  • Loss of appetite
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and constipation
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Excessive fatigue, weakness and numbness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Tremors
  • Hyperactivity
  • Severe abdominal pain

What Battery Manufacturing Processes Cause Lead Exposure?

OSHA provides an eTool that visually presents the various safety controls used in battery manufacturing. The tool covers controls for different stages of the process, including oxide and grid production, plate processing, battery assembly, and repair, reclaim, workbench procedures and maintenance.


Oxide and Grid Production: This involves several steps. Lead oxide is created from refined lead and mixed with water, acid and other chemicals to form a paste. Simultaneously, grids are cast from lead alloys. These two components are later combined in the pasting process. The lead oxide is delivered to plants in “pod” cars and stored in tanks, and these storage systems have the potential to leak.

In grid production, lead is melted and molded into various forms, but the major exposure to lead in these processes comes from airborne lead oxide and fumes. Overall, the process involves complex handling of lead and associated chemicals, with potential risks from lead exposure from lead fumes and lead oxide, which can become easily airborne.

Plate Processing: This process combines oxide paste with grids to prepare them for assembly. During the pasting process, lead oxide paste is applied to the grids, and this is the primary source of lead exposure, as the oxide can become airborne when dry. Workers might also be exposed to lead through contaminated items or incorrect handling of materials. In different parts of the process, such as hydrosetting, parting, and enveloping, incorrect handling of the grids can lead to further lead exposure. Finally, the transportation of materials within the plant requires proper operation and housekeeping to minimize lead emissions, as careless handling can increase the risk of exposure. Overall, the process requires careful handling and proper procedures to manage the risk of lead contamination.

Battery Assembly: Battery assembly involves putting together plates, containers and other parts to create a functional battery, and charging is a key step. During the stacking process, the plates are arranged with insulating separators, a step where lead oxide can become airborne, posing a risk of exposure.

The major source of lead exposure in the group burning process comes from lead fumes that workers may inhale during the following operations:

  • Automatic COS machine operation
  • Manual group burning
  • Group repair operations
  • Cleaning molds
  • Adjusting/repairing equipment

In the final stages of battery assembly, workers place groups in the battery case, fuse straps together using a torch or electrical power, and then weld the connections. The units undergo testing, and posts are attached. The major source of lead exposure comes from lead fumes during the intercell welding process and the dry charge formation process. Lead exposure risks must be managed during all these processes.

Repair and Reclaim: Workers repair and salvage defective batteries and recycle scrap grids, plates and straps. They test and reuse plate groups when possible and remove groups by sawing or cutting. Both wet and dry reclaim operations must be isolated from the rest of the plant. Dry reclaim involves remelting scrap material in a lead pot and pouring lead ingots, while wet reclaim separates the paste from the plates before remelting and pouring ingots. The major risk in these processes is the exposure to lead oxide, which can become easily airborne.

Maintenance: Maintenance personnel are at risk of exposure to lead fumes and dust when working with equipment that is contaminated with lead. To minimize this risk, they should use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow recommended work practices. Exposure may also occur when servicing and handling contaminated equipment in the maintenance shop. Implementing a well-designed system and a continuous preventive maintenance program is essential in preventing and controlling ventilation system problems, further reducing the risk of lead exposure.

What is a Dust Collection System and How Does It Mitigate Exposure and Explosion Risks?

Dust collection systems keep harmful particles and fumes from settling on surfaces. They work by drawing in large volumes of air and forcing it through filters, which trap dust particles. Once the air passes through the system, it reenters the facility or leaves through an outside vent.

Manufacturers use dust collection systems to protect workers from toxic dust and comply with safety standards. The key regulatory bodies that manufacturers must be aware of include Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Facilities must stay compliant with emerging regulations, and dust collection systems are often the most cost-effective solution.

One way to reduce exposure is by installing a dust collector like the Gold Series system, which uses high-efficiency filter cartridges. The Gold Series is not a “one size fits all” system; it is sized and specified for each specific process and dust type. That is particularly important when handling toxic dusts. Click here to watch a short video about the Gold Series dust collector.

Benefits of Dust Collection in Battery Manufacturing

Dust collection systems can help you keep your facility and equipment clean, protect workers and comply with safety standards. Here are the top benefits of dust collection for battery manufacturers:

Protects Workers From Harmful Dust

As workers process lead plates and assemble battery cells, toxic particles enter the air. Worker exposure to these particles can be dangerous, causing health conditions like lead poisoning.

Dust collectors mitigate these hazards—removing toxic particles like lead, cobalt and nickel from the air. They also prevent dust from collecting on surfaces, which reduces the likelihood of a fire or explosion. By creating a safe environment for workers, you can help your facility meet various regulations, including the safety standards enforced by OSHA.

Ensures Compliance With Safety Standards

Battery manufacturers must comply with various safety regulations, many of which concern lead exposure. This includes federal OSHA standards for general industry (29 CFR 1910), such as Subpart Z for toxic and hazardous substances. OSHA addresses lead specifically in this document.

In addition to Federal standards, manufacturers in 28 states must follow OSHA-approved state plans that are at least as stringent as OSHA’s. The state plans may also have different requirements than federal plans.

OSHA also requires manufacturers to use particulate sampling techniques to determine exposure to lead. Some employers may also be required to perform biological monitoring to determine if employees have lead in their bloodstream.

A dust collector can remove lead particles from your facility, reducing the risk of lead exposure among workers. By reducing lead exposure, you can more easily comply with OSHA’s safety standards.

Reduces Exposure to Other Toxic Materials

Lead dust is not the only material to worry about. Besides lead dust, workers might be exposed to toxic materials like cadmium, arsenic, antimony (stibine), mercury, nickel, selenium, silver and zinc. Workers can also be exposed to reactive chemicals, such as sulfuric acid, solvents, acids, caustic chemicals and electrolytes.

Dust collectors can help you remove these particles, especially if you use a filter compatible with the dust you’re trying to collect. Below, we help you select a filter that works best for your dust type and application.

3 Tips To Help Battery Manufacturers Improve Dust Collection

Looking for ways to keep your facility clean, safe and compliant? Here are three tips to follow if you’re just getting started with dust collection:

  1. Analyze Your Dust

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: You should have a strong knowledge of the dust(s) produced by your operations to ensure that you operate safely. Many dusts are explosive, flammable or can cause health issues if not managed properly.

The best way to know your dust is to have it analyzed. The burden of proof is on manufacturers to demonstrate that their dust is not combustible, so it is important to test process dust through a valid third-party testing lab and to keep records on file proving that it is not combustible. If your dust is combustible, consult with an expert about adding explosion vents, baffles and other protective equipment to your dust collection system to mitigate an explosion.

It is also important to analyze other dust characteristics to determine the best dust collection system and filters for your operation. Key dust properties include particle size, shape, gravity, moisture level and abrasiveness. Most dust collection equipment suppliers can conduct dust sample bench testing and work with you to specify the best system for your application.

  1. Add Engineering Controls Starting With a Dust Collection System

OSHA recommends that facilities maintain workplace air quality through “engineering controls” where feasible. These controls may include adding enclosures to process equipment, ventilating the factory through a dust collection system, and creating new handling procedures to transport the collected dust to storage, recycle streams or off-plant receivers.

Dust collection systems are the most cost-effective way to limit workers’ exposure to lead dust and improve air quality. They work around the clock, using advanced filtration technology to safely capture and contain airborne contaminants.

  1. Properly Maintain Your Dust Collector

Dust collection systems must also be maintained properly. Filters must be changed out correctly and often enough to prevent the system from breaking down and releasing the captured lead into the environment. A bag-in/bag-out (BIBO) system may be required to safely change filters. This protects maintenance personnel from exposure and also prevents dust from escaping back into the process area.

High-efficiency cartridges are generally required in battery manufacturing applications, and specific filter media may also be required. For example, you can use HemiPleat eXtreme filter cartridges in systems that capture dust from cathode splitting processes. These filters use blended cellulose and polyester fiber media that is coated with nanofibers for superior dust release.

How To Choose the Right Dust Collection System

Once you’ve identified the type of dust that your operation produces, you can select the right dust collection system and filter for your needs.

Here are a few popular types of dust collectors and filters to help you make an informed choice:

Types of Dust Collectors 

Dust collection systems are specialized. Each system collects a different type of dust—capturing particles that range from flammable to fibrous. You should select a system compatible with your dust type to see the best results.

Here are some common types of dust collectors:

  • Cartridge dust collector: A cartridge dust collector uses cartridge-style filters to gather and filter dust. When the filters fill with dust, the collector cleans them with a pulse of air, sending dust into the hoppers below for disposal. This collector is ideal for most industrial applications, including battery manufacturing.
  • Baghouse dust collector: This collector works similarly to the cartridge dust collector. Its main difference lies in the shape of its bag, which is long and cylindrical, made from woven fabrics. These collectors work well for applications that involve a lot of dust, like mining.
  • Wet scrubber: Wet scrubbers are also called air scrubbers. These systems use a liquid (often water) to remove particles from the air. Dust-laden air moves through filters where it mixes with mist. The mist attaches to the dust particles and removes them through centrifugal force. Wet scrubbers can help you safely remove explosive or flammable dust from your facility.

Types of Dust Collector Filter Media

Quality filters help dust collectors work more efficiently. They allow the system to process more dust with less maintenance—reducing material and labor costs.

Here are two types of filter media most commonly used for cartridge filters:

  • Cellulose/Nonwoven: Cellulose-based media is the most economical choice for dry dust collection applications at temperatures up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This media expands your system’s capacity to hold dust and promotes dust release so the filter clogs less often.
  • Spunbond/Synthetic: This media handles heat better than cellulose-based products. It can withstand dry applications with operating temperatures up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Spunbonded media also has a smooth surface that resists moisture, making it a good choice for outdoor systems.

Get Started With Dust Collection Today

There are many options available to meet your dust collection needs. Selecting the appropriate equipment can be a daunting task, but we can help you through the critical design phase. We help assess your system, applications and physical space to determine the best solutions for meeting your goals.

If you need help selecting the right option for your application, contact one of our experts here.

eBook: 10 Ways to Keep Your Dust Collector Operating Safely

Is Your Dust Collector Operating Safely? If your dust collector is not installed properly or designed to accommodate your specific operations, the dust collector itself could become a safety concern.