E-waste: stop child labor, start global Extended Producer Responsibility!

We all know that the e-waste that are exported to developing countries, in  most of the cases, are being treated with huge environmental and health impacts. But let’s have a closer look, see the pictures in the following links.

Let’s see what’s happening to China’s Guiu, an e-waste village, where some 5,000 workshops in the village recycle 15,000 tonnes of waste daily including hard drives, mobile phones, computer screens and computers shipped in from around the world. Have a look at the Chien-min Chung’s photographs published in Time and you will have a good idea about Guiu.

Please have a look at the recent Daily Mail’s reportage about the e-waste market in Seelampur, where  India sends old computers, TVs and mobile phones to be scrapped. More than 30,000 people work there each day with some earning as little as £2 for extracting copper from items. Among those working at the site are young children who work on their hands and knees sorting through the waste

Check the Hong Kong’s e-waste dumpsite nightmare where 50 to 100 containers of e-waste arrive daily, most of  them from USA.

And after you have seen the real conditions in e-waste dumpsites, then read carefully the following excerpt from the Wasted Health report.

“Generally, exposure to the hazardous components of e-waste is most likely to arise through inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact. In addition to direct occupational (formal or informal) exposure, people can come into contact with e-waste materials, and associated pollutants, through contact with contaminated soil, dust, air, water, and through food sources, including meat. Children, fetuses, pregnant women, elderly people, people with dis- abilities, workers in the informal e-waste recycling sector, and other vulnerable populations face additional exposure risks. Children are a particularly sensitive group because of additional routes of exposure (eg, breastfeeding and placental exposures), high-risk behaviors (eg, hand-to-mouth activities in early years and high risk-taking behaviors in adolescence), and their changing physiology (e.g. high intakes of air, water, and food, and low rates of toxin elimination). The children of e-waste recycling workers also face take- home contamination from their parents’ clothes and skin and direct high-level exposure if recycling is taking place in their homes.

In a recent study of health risks posed by e-waste, 23 published epidemiological studies were reviewed, all from southeast China. The project recorded plausible outcomes associated with exposure to e-waste including change in thyroid function, changes in cellular expression and function, adverse neonatal outcomes, changes in temperament and behavior, and decreased lung function. Boys aged 8–9 years living in an e-waste recycling town had a lower forced vital capacity than did those living in a control town. Significant negative correlations between blood chromium concentrations and forced vital capacity in children aged 11 and 13 years were also reported. Findings from most studies showed increases in spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, and premature births, and reduced birth weights and birth lengths associated with exposure to e-waste. People living in e-waste recycling towns or working in e-waste recycling had evidence of greater DNA damage than did those living in control towns.

In other studies, researchers have linked e-waste to adverse effects on human health, such as inflammation and oxidative stress – precursors to cardiovascular disease, DNA damage and possibly cancer”.

Well, now it is easy to understand why it is so important and urgent to go on, very fast, for a global Extended Producer Responsibility for the companies that produce PCs, laptops, mobile phones and other electronic gadgets. It is the only way to stop child labor, slavery in the name of recycling , and the violation of the most elementary human rights for the poor people involved in e-waste dismantling and dumping in the developing world. As the recent developments with Liam (Apple’s robot)  demonstrate this is achievable now.

Let’s do it immediately, there are decades of thousands of lives that still can be saved!

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