The Global Impact of E-Waste On Health and Environment

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What is e-waste? Electrical/electronic waste is any equipment that runs on electricity (or battery) that has been discarded by the original user regardless of its working condition. E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream globally. Electronic consumption and production has been growing exponentially, while electronics are becoming more affordable and accessible.

 

Electronic waste, by many, is considered to be hazardous. They release chemicals and toxic substances to the environment, which in turn, is bio-accumulated by organisms. The toxicity does not remain within the waste site, but it travels along different environments through contaminated soil, surface water, and food chain. Most of these harmful substances have extremely slow metabolic rate in animals thus accumulating in animals and being excreted in produce we consume, like eggs or milk

 

The hazard posed is not only threatening to the waste-management workers who are immediately exposed, but poses threat to many residents and future generations living in the surrounding vicinity as well. There have been reports of epidermal, repertory, and digestive illnesses with those who have been exposed to e-waste sites. Parenthetically, according to the International Labour Organization, people in these vicinities have suffered higher than normal accounts of birth defects, death in infants, blood diseases, lung cancer, nervous and blood system damage leading to underdeveloped children, and anomalies in the kidneys, immune and respiratory systems.

 

A significant factor that is exponentially worsening the situation is that there are higher volumes of e-waste than ever with the high demand, rapid production, and short lifespan of these products. When coupled, these two problems can pose a significant threat to both human health and the environment. This peril becomes a reality when e-waste is not properly managed.

 

Fortunately, not all discarded e-waste is doomed to destroy our health and the environment. Statistics show that in 2014, 29% of e-waste were being manipulated and recycled in some way—and the numbers are growing. Consumers are starting to be more aware, and understand that the waste that we produce is becoming a bigger problem than we had initially imagined.