E-waste Human Health Hazards
E-waste products do not decompose or rot away; therefore, E-waste is a problem that will not go away. E-waste takes up space in the communities it invades and can be very harmful to humans. Below are the health effects of some of the toxic substances found in E-waste.
Lead is found in television and computer on the glass panels and in the monitors about 3 to 8 pounds, depending on the size of the monitor. Exposure to high levels of lead can result in vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma or death. Other symptoms are appetite loss, abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, sleeplessness, irritability, and headaches. Small amounts of lead can have serious effects, especially for small children and pregnant women. Young children absorb lead more easily than older adults and thus they can be easily affected by even small amounts of lead in electronic devices. Continued, excessive exposure, as in an industrial setting, can affect the kidneys. In addition, lead damages the central as well as the peripheral nervous system, blood system, reproductive system and young children’s brain development.
Cadmium is found in semiconductor chips and in some cathode ray tubes (CRT’s). Inhaling cadmium can cause severe damage to the lungs and even cause death. Breathing air infested with lower levels of cadmium, although not immediately harmful can build up in the body after time and cause kidney disease and fragile bones. Cadmium substances are toxic and can accumulate over time in the human body seriously affecting one’s health and it damages the kidneys.
An estimated 22 percent of all the mercury being consumed is used in electronics. Mercury
is found in circuit boards, cell phones, and in batteries. Mercury is also used in flat screen displays in items such as flat screen televisions and computer monitors. Now why would someone not recycle an electronic knowing that it contains mercury and could harm people? Mercury can damage organs such as the brain and kidneys, which as we all know are very important to living a healthy life.
Used to prevent corrosion in steel and in steel housing. The hazard of Chromium is that it can enter the body because it is absorbed by human cells. Once in the body it has toxic effects on the body. It can also damage DNA which is what makes up the human body and its functions.
Poly-vinyl-chloride or PVC makes up the largest percentage of plastic used in electronic equipment. An average computer contains about 13.8 pound of plastic, including PVC plastics. The burning of PVC can cause dioxin which can damage the immune system and cause birth defects. In addition, PVC additives have been linked to such diseases as brain and liver cancer.
It is a metal used to protect people from radiation of screen panels that contain cathode ray tubes. It can cause the brain to swell, weak muscles, as well as damage to the heart, liver and spleen.
Beryllium is great to use for electronics because it is light weight yet strong and it conducts electricity well and is non magnetic. Beryllium is extremely harmful if inhaled and has been linked to various lung cancers and diseases.
Some products in E-waste contain black and colored toner. Toner is composed of carbon black which is carbon in its powder form. It is hazardous to inhale carbon black because it can irritate the lungs as well as cause other respiratory conditions, like asthma.
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Pucket, Jim and Ted Smith, ed. “Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asian”. BAN. 25 Feb. 2002. 1 April 2007. http://www.ban.org
“Effects of Lead on Human Health”.Health Canada. Feb 2004. 1 April 2007. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/iyh-vsv/environ/lead-plomb_e.html
“Public Health Statement for Cadmium”.ATSDR.July 1999. 1 April 2007. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/phs5.html
“Dioxin”. Wikipedia.10 April 2007.10 April 2007.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dioxin#Toxicity