Before most batteries effectively powered the world by using lithium ions to send a shock to the anode, or positive end, they used zinc anodes combined with mercury — which we now know can be deadly.

“In a lot of cases, the only thing battery companies have really worried about was (avoiding) killing people,” said Jeff Greene, the CEO of Wisconsin Battery Co., or WinBat for short.

Mercury use in batteries, which was banned in 1996, not only harms the environment when it’s leaked into waterways and the food chain, but can cause everything from developmental disorders in humans to death. After the hazards became known, battery companies said “all right, we got to switch from mercury. It’s killing people,” Greene said. “So they switched to lithium.”

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