U.S. National Institutes of Health

Ad placed by the Electric Storage Battery Company, Horseless Age, January 15, 1918

Courtesy Princeton University Library

Storage batteries provide a rechargeable source of energy for passenger cars, trains, streetcars, and lamps. In the past, manufacturers often removed the lead plates in the batteries and discarded empty casings in poor neighborhoods to minimize disposal costs. These self-contained casings, which were made of hard rubber, emitted intense heat when burned.

Exide batteries were similar to those dumped by the Bruco Company in a Chicago neighborhood in 1959.