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E-waste poses threat to 30 million children worldwide: WHO

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E-waste poses threat to millions of children, adolescents, and pregnant women

Ground Report | New Delhi: E-waste poses threat; The World Health Organization (WHO) warned today that a “tsunami of electronic waste” not properly managed creates serious health risks for children, adolescents, and pregnant women. The information has come out in the report ‘ Children and Digital Dumpsite ‘ released by the World Health Organization, “effective and binding action is urgent to protect the millions of children, adolescents and pregnant women whose health is compromised by the informal treatment of waste electrical or electronic equipment,”.

Electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest-growing household waste in the world. In 2019, according to the Global Electronic Waste Statistics Association (GESP), 53.6 million tons of electrical and electronic waste were produced worldwide, but only 17.4% of this was recorded as collected and recycled. properly. 

The fate of the remaining e-waste is unknown, and it may not have been managed and recycled in a healthy and environmentally friendly way. Some e-waste ends up in landfills, while significant amounts are sent to low- and middle-income countries, often illegally and adding significant burdens to the local hazardous waste management infrastructure. Here, informal workers,

Informal methods of extracting valuable materials from e-waste are potentially dangerous for the environment and human health, especially for children. Informal e-waste recycling activities have been linked to a wide range of health effects. Children, adolescents, and pregnant women are at increased risk of the health effects associated with e-waste recycling as they go through vital stages of physical and neurological development. 

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How e-waste harms health

Children exposed to e-waste are especially sensitive to toxic chemicals present in them because of their small size, their less developed organs and rapid rate of growth. They absorb more pollutants than their size. Their body is less able than adults to absorb and remove toxins from the body.

Those engaged in the recycling of this waste are exposed to more than 1,000 harmful substances, including lead, mercury, nickel, brominated flame retardants and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), to recover valuable metals such as gold and copper.

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At the same time, if a pregnant woman comes in contact with this waste, not only her but also the health and development of her unborn child are at risk. This can cause premature birth, death, and affect the development of the baby. In addition, it can affect his mental development, intellectual ability and ability to speak.

Along with this, it also affects the breathing capacity of children and the functioning of the lungs. It can damage the DNA of children. This can increase the risk of thyroid disorders and later cancer and heart disease.

5.36 metric tonnes of e-waste was generated globally in 2019

According to the Global E-Waste Statistics Partnership, about 5.36 metric tonnes of e-waste was generated globally in 2019, which has increased by about 21 percent in the last five years. This is so much e-waste that if the total weight is estimated, it was about 350 cruise ships heavy and if it is put in a line, then its length will be about 125 kilometers long. It is estimated that in the coming time, as the interest in computers, mobile phones, and other electronic items is increasing, this waste will increase further.

E-waste poses threat; Of this, only 17.4 percent of the waste had reached formal management or recycling facilities, according to the data. The rest was illegally dumped in low- or middle-income countries where it is recycled informally. Proper collection and recycling of e-waste is also important from an environmental point of view. The amount of e-waste that was formally recycled in 2019 resulted in a reduction of 15 million tonnes of CO.

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Solution

The report Children and e-waste landfills call on exporters, importers, and governments to take effective and binding measures so that these wastes are disposed of without harming the environment and the health and safety of workers, their families, and their communities; to study exposure to these wastes and their effects on health; that facilitate better reuse of materials, and that promote the manufacture of electronic and electrical equipment with greater durability.

The report also calls for the health sector around the world to act to reduce the deleterious health effects of e-waste by increasing the ability to diagnose, monitor, and prevent exposure of children and adolescents. women to toxic substances; raising awareness about the added benefits of recycling more responsibly; working with affected communities; and seeking to improve health research and data on the health risks faced by workers in the unregulated waste treatment sector.

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Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at WHO, explained that E-waste poses threat “Children and adolescents also have the right to grow and learn in a healthy environment, determined by exposure to electricity, electronic waste, and its associated many toxic components. has an effect on that right.” In such a situation, the health sector can play an important role in this. With their help, not only can people be made aware, but they can also influence policymakers for the rules related to it. At the same time, they can also make the general public aware of its dangers. 

Not only this, but it is also important to keep in mind the quality in the manufacture of electronic materials so that those devices keep working for a long time. Along with this, awareness about it in society is also necessary. In this matter, the common people also have a responsibility, electronic goods should be bought keeping in mind the need, their unnecessary purchases should be avoided.

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