E-waste endangers 40,000 based on new study

More than 200 million people worldwide are at risk from exposure to toxic pollution in developing countries, according to two environmental groups that recently published a list of the world’s most polluted places.

A U.S.-based environmental group, Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland published a top 10 list of the "World's Worst Polluted Places" based on more than 2,000 risk assessments at contaminated sites in 49 countries. This is the first report of its kind since 2007.

Six years ago, Chinese and Indian areas dominated the list, but because of successful clean-up efforts, the two countries have completely evaded this year’s list.

The World's Worst Polluted Places in 2013 (unranked)

  • Agbogbloshie Dumpsite, Ghana
  • Chernobyl, Ukraine*
  • Citarum River, Indonesia
  • Dzershinsk, Russia*
  • Hazaribagh, Bangladesh
  • Kabwe, Zambia*
  • Kalimantan, Indonesia
  • Matanza Riachuelo, Argentina
  • Niger River Delta, Nigeria
  • Norilsk, Russia*

*Included in the original 2006 or 2007 lists

Agbogbloshie, located in Ghana’s capital, was a new addition to the list. It is the second largest e-waste processing area in West Africa, importing about 215,000 tons of e-waste from abroad each year. This number is expected to double by 2020, according to the report.

The composition of electronic waste requires a high level of skill and resources to recycle it safely. E-waste processors in Agbogbloshie are threatening the public health by burning cables to recover the copper inside. The toxic metals, such as lead, contained in these cables can migrate through smoke and can seep into the soil.

In Agbogbloshie, soil samples show concentrations of lead that are 45 times greater than the acceptable level. The report gives a conservative estimate of the people affected as more than 40,000; however, they believe a more in-depth analysis would show that as many as 250,000 individuals may be at risk.

To ensure your electronics do not get exported overseas and further contaminate developing countries, partner with an e-Stewards certified recycler. e-Stewards’ recyclers adhere to the most stringent, global standards for recycling e-waste and worker protection. e-Stewards is the only certification that strictly prohibits the exportation of toxic e-waste to developing countries.


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