Sunday, May 13, 2012

E- Waste: A Wave of Trouble

Temple Terrace, FL
[Excerpt from my article on Ocean Waste]

       Since 1995, electronic devices have become more available at lower cost. "On average, each U.S. household has at least four small (<10 lb) and three large (>10lb) electronic waste products in storage, which represents more than 1.36 million tons of toxic wastes," (Health, Moeller). In the United States alone, estimates reveal 100,000 personal computers are discarded every day. This fact is compounded by several factors which have created the E-Waste crisis. ["(1) the small size and short life span of such devices; (2) a lack of understanding of their adverse impacts on the environment and public health; (3) the fact that these impacts occur throughout the life cycle of such products, extending from the acquisition of the raw materials to their manufactures and disposal; (4) the sheer magnitude of the problem; (5). the absence of recycling policies"] (Health, Moeller). When the E-waste is dumped, the levels of lead among children have been at 15.3 ųg dl-^1 compared to 10ųg dl-^1 LD 50. Lead is not the only toxic material in electronic devices. Cadmium, Cobalt, Mercury, and Polyvinyl chloride are some others that cause various health complications in humans and animals. Breathing in particles and touching components are equally dangerous. E-Waste became an ocean waste problem because of two reasons. One, the amount of E-Waste has grown, making its way into the mix of ocean waste at sea. Two, the government officials of developing nations in Africa and also China have allowed the United States and European Unions to ship millions of tons of E-waste and hazardous waste to their countries. The basis for the acceptance of this trash is because of money and the fallacy that some of the trash is reusable and safe to pick by residents. The grim reality of this process can be seen in Ghana, where mounds of E-Waste are piled up along the beaches. Children and adults have begun to notice the adverse health effects of being exposed to toxic levels of the materials. For example, when exposed through inhalation of Cobalt, reduced pulmonary function as well as lung cancer have been observed. Polyvinyl chloride is major contributor to cancer of the liver, brain, and lungs either through touching in certain states or breathing particles. "The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has estimated that the EU generates 8.7 million tonnes of e-waste a year and that African countries, primarily Nigeria and Ghana, 'run the risk of becoming the rubbish dumps of the planet.' ," ( This figure was from 2010. This is not only a moral issue, but a human rights violation. In 1989, recommendations from the United Nations Environmental Programme were addressed due to the news of "silent trades" as I mentioned earlier by the United States and European Union. These recommendations were reviewed in 1994 at the Geneva conference (Health, Moeller). To date, no change has been sited as to a cease in shipments of the E-waste and hazardous waste.

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