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Fred George

on 9 June 2014

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Transcript of E-waste

E-waste being carefully dismantled
Some of the times, it gets stored in peoples garages or houses for a while. Unfortunately, this only delays the electronics being thrown out, and prevents the electronic from being reused. Another way would be to burn it. Unfortunately, this only serves to have the dangerous chemicals inside the electronics to leak out and infect the environment even faster. Also, even if the e-waste is thrown on landfills, the chemicals in them such as arsenic and mercury will still leak out into the groundwater, rivers, and soil, as well as poisoning the air. Those chemicals leaking into the water, soil, and air can cause birth defects, brain damage, as well more potentially lethal damage to us humans. If that happens, it will probably harm all the nations with large amounts of e-waste pilling up.
For the computers, unless you destroy the hard drive, criminals can easily go through the hard drive and get your personal information. If you do your banking online, they can get your bank information, and use it to take out all the money from your account.
Even in the plants where e-waste is safely recycled, the masks aren’t fool proof. The recycling workers have higher chances of getting birth defects, cancer, and other harmful diseases.
On the left is a picture is what most people think happen to their old electronics during recycling. That it gets dismantled in a safe and hi-tech facility. While this does happen, it unfortunately just gets dumped in some random country.
What happens to electronics after they become obsolete?
A girl in Guiyu smashing a CRT
You see this girl, she is only a child yet her entire life has been surrounded by trash. In the photo, she is smashing a CRT tube, which contains 5 pounds of lead, and other highly toxic materials. Imagine yourself in her place. Forced to choose poison, over poverty, just to survive. Day in, day out, every day, smashing other peoples electronic trash just to make a living. There are thousands of people just like her, some younger. All of them have too much lead in their blood. All of them are destroying our e-waste, just to take the precious metals inside. This is what happened to every electronic you have ever thrown out, or “recycled”.
Guiyu, China
The graph on the left shows how much e-waste is made and recycled each year. From 2000 – 2011, only 18.32% of the total amount of e-waste was recycled, and the rest was thrown out. Even then, of the e-waste that was recycled, most of it was shipped overseas to developing countries such as Ghana. After getting there as “donations”, kids in Ghana burn, or break the computers and take the gold or other metals inside. Unfortunately, all the poisonous chemicals inside the e-waste get released into the air as smoke, then into the lungs of the kids, because they don’t have any protection. The kids who do this have higher chances of developing cancer and other problems.
A cathode ray tube.
On its own, obsolete e-waste may not seem like much, but it is. There are hundreds of dangerous chemicals in electronics such as brominated flame-retardants; which is used to stop the circuit board and plastic from burning, doesn’t break down easily and piles up in the environment, lead; which is used in monitors, and is highly toxic to the environment. (Cathode Ray Tubes in in the older computer monitors sold worldwide in 2002 had about 10000 tons of lead in them)Lead could wipe out whole populations of microorganisms, and slow down decomposition. There is also mercury; which is used in flat screen displays, some older batteries & switches, and is highly toxic to the environment. If mercury is leaked into water, any fish there will be infected, and there may be deformities in growing animals, as well as arsenic, which is found in some older CRT tubes, and is highly toxic, as a lethal dose is about 100 mg. There are many more chemicals; which can do anything from lowering the rate of animal decomposition, to higher death rates for plants and animals.
In Guiyu, China, woman were heating circuit boards over coal fires, while the men were using a medieval acid recipe to take out the gold inside the e-waste; all without any kind of protection. Unfortunately, not only does this poison their bodies, it also destroys the environment. As a by-product of the e-waste there, the children have too much lead in their blood, drinking water is trucked in, and the air is filled with some of the most toxic chemicals on earth such as mercury, and lead.

Effects of E-waste on the Environment
A boy in Ghana burning wires.
This is an e-waste dumping site in Ghana. The developed nations have been sending their e-waste here for years. When it arrives, the kids break the computers by either smashing the electronics, or burning them, just to make a living. Every day, they breathe in the toxic fumes that slowly poison them. As if that wasn’t enough, the fumes made by burning the electronics also contain heavily toxic chemicals that severely harm the earth and air. While the fumes made the air very heavy with smoke, the other chemicals pollute the groundwater and soil, making them too toxic to use.

Effects e-waste has on human health.
Some effects burning e-waste can have on human health include birth defects, brain damage heart and liver damage, kidney damage nervous system damage and skeletal system damage. The different metals in the e-waste damage human health in different ways some of the more damaging metals include mercury, nickel, cadmium, silver, lithium, palladium, barium and rhodium.
Now I will tell you about the different effects the different metals in e-waste can affect human health. When people inhale the toxic fumes from burning mercury (found in display screens and old computer batteries)it can create birth defects, brain damage, heart and liver damage, kidney damage, and nervous system damage. When people inhale the toxic fumes from burning nickel (found in hard drives) it can cause birth defects, heart and liver damage, and kidney damage. When humans inhale the fumes from burning cadmium some problems that may occur include birth defects heart/liver damage, kidney damage, nervous system damage, and skeletal system damage. When humans breathe in the toxic fumes from burning silver (found in circuit boards and plasma display screens) some things that may happen include birth defects, brain damage, heart damage, liver and lung damage, and nervous/reproductive system damage. When humans inhale the fumes from burning or dissolving lithium it may cause birth defects, brain damage, heart, liver, lung, and spleen damage, as well as kidney damage, and nervous/reproductive system damage (lithium is used in rechargeable batteries). Barium causes brain damage, and heart, liver, lung, and spleen damage. It’s found in TV picture tubes, and removes the gases in it. Lead causes birth defects, brain damage, kidney damage, and nervous/reproductive system damage. There is about 5 pounds of lead in CRTs. Rhodium causes heart, liver, lung, and spleen damage.
Most of the people being damaged by burning e-waste live in developing countries were the e-waste is illegally being shipped. Most of the people that live in these developing countries know that the smoke from the burning e-waste can greatly affect their health. (According to PBS documentary Ghana digital dumping ground )Despite this fact the people are forced to make a decision between health and money. Most of them choose money because it allows them to live in a shelter as opposed to on the street.

A mountain of e-waste in China.
Unfortunately, while we like the idea of keeping their old technology out of landfills by replacing parts, most people don’t. As a general rule, its fairly cheaper just to get new electronics, instead of fixing or replacing broken parts. But this just serves to increase the amount of e-waste in our garage. When we throw them out, we either throw them out, or take them to companies that say they will recycle the electronics in safe and controlled environments. Unfortunately, most companies simply put them on a boat that smuggles them into developing countries and let the local residents deal with the trash. Another part of the problems lies in the companies that actually make the electronics. Since the bosses want to make more money, the electronics are less recyclable, more toxic, and break easily. Not only does this harm the workers, it also poisons the atmosphere during production, and unsafe recycling. 105 developed countries agreed on a full ban to not send e-waste to undeveloped countries. A large part of the problem lies in the fact that the American and Canadian governments have not signed the treaty, and are constantly trying to undermine the treaty. Taking advantage of the situation, certain companies ship massive amounts of e-waste each year to developing countries, which isn’t helping at all. Another problem lies in us. The truth is, if were to choose between quality, and how green a product is, most of us would choose quality, even at the expense of other people. As for recycling, we would rather dump all our e-waste in someone else’s yard instead of our own. If we want to make a difference, we have to actually do something about, instead of just talking about it.
Why don’t we do anything about it?
Above: A graph on e-waste component and their effect on human health.
Below: A woman cooking motherboards over a fire.

The above graph shows the known and suspected routes of e-waste dumping. The ones in red are places getting dumped on them, and the ones in dark red are suspected, while the green ones are dumping.

When your electronic breaks, try to see if it can be fixed before recycling it, or you can give it to someone else. If you do choose to recycle it, make sure the place your giving it to will recycle it properly, instead of shipping it to other countries. Don’t throw it out, because that will cause the chemicals inside to pollute the environment. You could choose greener products, from companies that use less or don’t use toxic chemicals in the electronics.
One easy way to cut down on e-waste is simply to not buy any unneeded electronics. And ask yourself; do you really need this, or do you just want for the sake of having it, or because it’s the newest. Not only will not buying unneeded electronic keep your old ones out of landfills, it will also save you a lot of money.
Some other things you could do would be to make a petition for the government to get companies to get rid of the number of poisons in the electronics, or protest.
What should we do about this crisis?
A prezi by
William Zhou &
Stefan Mayer

CBS News Video:
The Wasteland

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