I was pretty amazed by what I discovered, it’s a major issue and it’s scary!” said Anand, with a rather grim look on his face.
Anand and I were having a discussion on e-waste yesterday morning. Anand has spent the past month researching the issue of e-waste management and disposal in Chennai. He was down in Bombay for the weekend and was filling me in with what his study has thrown up. Much of what he said was new to me. I realized that my knowledge of e-waste disposal and the long run environmental hazards it is creating, is rather limited and I need to study this matter in greater depth. Well, for a start, I did what we normally do – I googled the topic and here’s a ‘cut and paste’ of some of my first findings:
• The metallic parts of obsolete computers are considered hazardous for the environment, as they contain poisonous chemicals.
• Old models of televisions and computer monitors, which are very bulky, contain at least 5 pounds of a poisonous metal - lead.
• According to a recent study, dumping of consumer electronics contributes to approximately 40 percent of the lead in landfills.
• Lead is also found in the Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) of computer and television monitors. The metal causes damage to the nervous system.
• Mercury, a hazardous metal used in the flat-panel display screens, is found to be a neurotoxin. The harmful metal is absorbed by the human body through contaminated drinking water. High levels of metallic mercury damages the nervous system and the developing foetus. It is hard to get rid of mercury, once it is released in the environment.
• Circuit boards and batteries contain cadmium, which is known to be a carcinogen - directly involved in the promotion of various types of cancer.
• Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), a synthetic polymer used for the insulation of wires and cables of electronic equipments, gives rise to the emission of chlorinated dioxins and furans, when it is disposed.
• Cadmium and mercury, found in the monitors of obsolete desktop PCs, leach into the ground water, thereby contaminating it.
• Researchers have found that improper disposal of e-waste will affect the quality of ground water in the next 10-20 years.
• According to an estimate, the future generations will find it difficult to obtain clear water supply, due to the improper methods adopted for disposal of electronic waste.
• Rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, found in laptop computers, are one of the major contributors of electronic waste. Cadmium is hazardous for the environment due to its chronic toxic property.
Ok, e-waste is definitely an issue that needs our attention.