E-Waste and our health

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What did you do with your old cell phone?  Not the one you are using now, but the one you retired?  Did you just toss it?  What about your old computer?  VCR?

E-waste is anything electronic including keyboards, circuit boards, PDAs, routers, printers etc., and it is now the fastest growing source of consumer waste. 

Because of all the really awful stuff in them, like mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and brominated flame retardants for example, land-filling these products is a very bad idea, as these toxins leach into the soil and into drinking water. 

Incinerating e-waste sends the toxins into the air.  Many of these toxic materials are very persistent and stay in the environment for long periods of time, accumulating in the tissue of plants and animals, slowly building up in the food chain, and can contribute to health problems such as cancer, and neurological, immune, endocrine, developmental and reproductive disorders. 

Children, with their smaller body size and developing systems are more vulnerable to these persistent bio-accumulative toxins.

As usual, the EU is way ahead of North America with regard to regulating these toxic substances.  As of July ’06, no new electric or electronic product on the market in the EU can contain lead, brominated flame retardants or cadmium. 

And of course, because of the new regulations, companies were forced to innovate to maintain market-share, and the result is slightly less toxic items coming to market.

But perhaps we need to think twice before rushing out to buy these electronic gadgets.  Can you make do without?  Do you really need the latest and greatest, or can you manage with what you’ve got for another few years if you upgrade memory etc? 

And what do we do with our current electronic garbage when we really must make a change? Please don’t dump it in the garbage, that’s for sure!

Some computer companies like IBM, and HP now have return programs so check with your manufacturer.    Many schools, libraries, non-profit organizations, retirement homes will gladly take your old computer. 

In Canada, contact the Electronic Recycling Association and they will pick up your computer(s) from your home, business, or government office and donate it for free. 

On the left sidebar of the ERA there is a link for pick-up in the US and United Kingdom as well.  Here is a list of where you can donate your old phone in Canada. 

In the States, look for a phone recycling program near you here.  Most communities have or are developing computer and other e-waste recycling programs, so google e-waste and your community, and find out where you can recycle the stuff near you. 

If these products cannot be refurbished and  reused, they are taken apart carefully to remove the metals, separate out the plastics and the glass. 

Many of the companies that do this aim for zero waste going to landfill, and there can be a good profit in this service, so if there is no e-waste recycling available near you yet, I suggest you hang onto your old electronic equipment, as this service will come to you soon. 

There is too much harm to our environment and therefore our health by simply allowing electronic trash to go to landfill.

Related tips:
Mercury, a strong nerve poison

www.wellnesstips.ca

2 Comments

  1. Healthcare Economist · Health Wonk Review - 2 Nov 2006 edition said,

    November 2, 2006 @ 3:15 am

    [...] And finally, for those who also value the importance of a healthy environment, Vreni Gurd’s Wellness Tips on how to reduce e-waste may be of interest. [...]

  2. what is said,

    March 19, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

    This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that
    helped me. Thank you!

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