Soaring E-Waste Affects the Health of Millions of Children
First WHO Report on e-waste and Child Health calls for stronger and more binding action to protect children against growing health threats
A new report by the World Health Organization, Children and Digital Dumpsites, states that effective and binding action is needed to safeguard the health of millions of children, teens and expectant mothers around the world.
“With increasing volumes of production, disposal, the world is facing what one international forum called a mounting “tsunami e-waste”, putting lives at risk.” Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, WHO Director General. “The world has united to protect the oceans and their ecosystems from microplastic and plastic pollution. Now, the world must unite to protect our most precious resource, the health of our children from the threat of e waste.
Informal waste sector is home to as many as 12.9 Million women. This potentially exposes them to toxic electronic waste and puts their unborn children at high risk.
More than 18 million children and teens are involved in the informal industrial sector. Waste processing is one sub-sector. Because children’s hands are smaller than adults, parents and caregivers often engage them in e-waste recycling. Children can also live and go to school near e-waste recycle centers, where they may be exposed to high levels of toxic chemicals like lead and mercury. This can cause intellectual disabilities.
Because of their small size, less developed organs, and rapid growth and development, children who are exposed to e waste are more vulnerable than adults to toxic chemicals. They are more susceptible to toxic chemicals than their size, and they absorb more pollutants.
Human health impacts of electronic waste
Workers who are trying to recover precious materials like copper or gold could be exposed to more than 1,000 hazardous substances such as lead, mercury and nickel.
An expectant mother’s exposure to toxic waste can have a lasting impact on the development and health of her child. Negative health effects can include stillbirth, premature births, low birth weight, and short life expectancy. Exposure to lead from e-waste recycling activities has been associated with significantly reduced neonatal behavioral neurological assessment scores, increased rates of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioral problems, changes in child temperament, sensory integration difficulties, and reduced cognitive and language scores.
E-waste can also have adverse effects on children’s health, including changes in their lung function, respiratory and respiratory effects and DNA damage. There is also an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer later in life.
Marie-Noel Brune Drisse (who was the main WHO author of the report) stated that a child who consumes one chicken egg from Agbogbloshie in Ghana will absorb 220x the European Food Safety Authority daily limit to intake chlorinated dioxins. Improper e–waste management is the root cause. This is a growing problem that many countries don’t recognize as a serious health issue. If countries don’t act quickly, the consequences will have a devastating impact on children’s health and a heavy burden for the health sector over the coming years.
An ever-growing problem
Globally, e-waste volumes have been increasing. Global E-waste Statistics Partnership, (GESP) reports that they have increased by 21% over the five years to 2019. 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste was generated. To put it in perspective, the e-waste generated last year was equivalent to 350 cruise ships stacked end to end along a line measuring 125 km. As the number of electronics, including mobile phones, continues to increase, this trend is expected to continue.
According to GESP estimates, only 17.4% of the e-waste generated in 2019 was managed or recycled in a formal manner. The rest were illegally dumped in low- and middle-income countries where they are recycled by informal workers.
To protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is crucial to properly collect and recycle e-waste. The GESP discovered that 17.4% of e waste was properly collected and recycled, which prevented the release of up to 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the environment.
This post was written by Steven Elia Co-Founder and Recycling Director at eCycle Florida. eCycle Florida is a R2 Certified electronics recycling company in the state of Florida. Our processes and procedures are dedicated to the proper destruction and recycling of your electronics. eCycle Florida is your go-to when looking for an electronic recycling center in Tampa.