Known and Suspected routes of E-waste dumpling

Source: Doucette, Gopal Dayaneni and John. System Error. San Jose, CA: Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, 2005.


     Since a short while ago, people bought the electronic divorces and expected to use for a decade at least.  However nowadays most people never go for fix their VCRs, telephones, or irons.  Rather people likely to buy the new one.  It is because of the electronic gadgets are getting cheaper, smaller and faster.  And the latest models are come out one after another.  Moreover often time buying new these items is cheaper and convenience than repairing them.  Therefore people tend to replace their goods without considering environmental harm.  Personal Computers and cell phones are the most visible and harmful devices of E-waste.

     According to the European studies, E-waste is estimated to increasing the volume of 3 to 5 percent per year[13] .  The Unites State is positioned as the counties which is the most consuming computers, and making E-waste.  Also in Canada, the Environmental Canada estimated that there are more than 140,000tonnes of waste per year. It is not only the problem in North America also in the United Kingdom, for each year, a 1milion tone of E-waste is produced and the volume of E-waste is increasing by 5 percent annually. Eventually about 90 percents of trash are dumped into landfills or incinerators.

      Today one of the most considerable resources of E-waste is cell phone.  In 1982, the first commercial cell phone services were instituted in the Unites States.  From 1985 to 2006 the utilization of cell phones dramatically increased from 340,000 to more than 203million[2}. The services of cell phone are getting very convenience such consumers can keep same phone number to their new contracts so that the interval of using cell phones is shorter and shorter.  As a result the U.S. Environmental protection Agency estimated that 130million cell phones were disposed of in 2005, and become 65,000tones of E-waste[13] .

      Moreover, the same as cell phone, consumption of computers are rapidly growing.  The Unites Nations University calculated that the computer sales are increasing by 10percent per year and more than 130 million computers are sold annually around the world. Even those computers are getting smaller their ecological impacts are becoming powerful.


Hazardous materials

  Computers and other electronic equipment are made from hundreds of different materials, both found naturally as well as man-made. While some naturally occurring substances, such as chromium, are harmless in nature, their use in the manufacture of electronic equipment often results in compounds which are hazardous. These highly toxic are especially harmful to human health and the environment if not disposed of carefully.




Occurrence in e-waste

 Halogenated compounds:
 - PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) Condensers, Transformers
- TBBA (tetrabromo-bisphenol-A) Fire retardants for plastics (thermoplastic components, cable insulation)
- ">PBB (polybrominated biphenyls) TBBA is presently the most widely used flame retardant in printed wiring boards and casings.
- PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers)   
- Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) Cooling unit, Insulation foam
- PVC (polyvinyl chloride) Cable insulation
 Heavy metals and other metals:
- Arsenic Small quantities in the form of gallium arsenide within light emitting diodes 
- Barium Getters in CRT
- Beryllium Power supply boxes which contain silicon controlled rectifiers and x-ray lenses
- Cadmium Rechargeable NiCd-batteries, fluorescent layer (CRT screens), printer inks and toners, photocopying-machines (printer drums)
- Chromium VI Data tapes, floppy-disks
- Lead CRT screens, batteries, printed wiring boards
- Lithium Li-batteries
- Mercury Fluorescent lamps that provide backlighting in LCDs, in some alkaline batteries and mercury wetted switches
- Nickel Rechargeable NiCd-batteries or NiMH-batteries, electron gun in CRT
- Rare Earth elements (Yttrium, Europium) Fluorescent layer (CRT-screen)
- Selenium Older photocopying-machines (photo drums)
- Zinc sulphide Interior of CRT screens, mixed with rare earth metals
- Toner Dust Toner cartridges for laser printers / copiers
Radio-active substances Medical equipment, fire detectors, active sensing element in smoke detectors
- Americium

Source: EMPA Hazardous Substances. Swiss e-waste guide. <>


    Environmental Impact and Health issue

     There are many health problem associated with the pollutants found in the electronic waste. Those toxic materials can release and contaminate ground water, which would be our tap water.  And it is possible to contain food chain, and increase the environmental and public health risks.


     For instance lead can be the cause of innumerable disadvantageous health effect in human including damaging the human central and peripheral nervous systems, the blood system and systems and decreased growth, hyperactivity.  It is going to be stored in the human born and even it is a little amount of lead, it can influence the development of children such as mental kidneys disability.  Moreover, it also accumulates in the environmental and lead very serious and long-term poisonous effects on plants, animals, and microorganisms. 



      In the village of Guiyu in China's Guangdong province, largest e-waste processing areas in China, the local water supply have been polluted.  The water there is no more drinkable so that residents are getting clean water from thirty kilometers away.  Nevertheless, people still use the polluted water to wash their vegetable or dishes, and they get stomach illness.  Very high level of lead and heavy metal contamination were found from local water and soil sample.  Its toxic level is 400 to 600 times higher than the levels allowed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization. It is obvious that the negative health effects to the workers, and ecosystems.


      Guiyu was used to be an agricultural area, before e-waste took over the place.  Today farmers sifted their jobs to scrap electronic work, which is more lucrative.  In fact, it is strongly recommended not to consume the food produced in Guiyu because of fear of pollution's effects.



 Possible Illness Caused by Toxic Materials Included

       in E-waste



 Exposure to high concentrations causes sclerosis, which can cause hair-loss, nail brittleness, and neurological abnormalities. Long-term exposure may cause kidney damage and damage to bone structure is also a known carcinogen. Short term or acute exposure can cause weakness, fever, headache, chills, sweating, and muscle pain.



 Exposure can cause lung cancer and chronic beryllium disease. Exposure can cause brain damage, nervous damage, blood disorders, kidney damage, and developmental damage to fetus.  Children are especially vulnerable. Acute exposure can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma, or death.


Polyvinyl Chloride(PVC)

 Exposure through ingestion or inhalation can cause central nervous system damage and kidney damage. PVC is the most used plastic, found in everyday electronics. When burned it produces large quantities of hydrogen chloride gas, which combines with water to form hydrochloric acid. Inhaling it can cause respiratory problems. Production and incineration of PVC creates dioxins.

chromium(IV)- Hexavalent Chromium


 Exposure can cause strong allergic reaction and DNA damage to cells.  Workers are exposed at disposal stage and chromium (IV) can also be released into the environment from landfill and incineration. Exposure may lead to brain swelling, muscle weakness, damage to heart, liver and spleen, or increased blood pressure.


Brominated Flame Retardants(BFRs)

 Long-term exposure may cause lung cancer, nerve damage and various skin diseases. Arsine gas(AsH3), used in tech manufacturing, is the most toxic form of arsenic. Suspected of hormonal interference, and reproductive harm,.  Exposure studies reveal BFRs in breast milk and blood of electronics workers, among others.


Polychlorinated Biphenyls(PCBs)

 Exposure to TCE can cause liver and kidney damage. Impaired immune system function, impaired fetal development, or death.  Manufacturing workers and communities where TCE leaches into drinking water are at greatest risk. Toxic effects of PCBs include immune suppression, liver damage, cancer promotion, nervous damage, reproductive damage in transformers and capacitors.  Though banned in many countries, they are still present in e-waste.

EMPA. Hazardous Substances. Swiss e-waste guide. <>


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