Living With Toxins
Vice reports on the steep price drop each time e-waste changes hands — and that’s before it even leaves the U.S. By the time your discarded TV or printer is unloaded on the dock of a developing country, the workers there can expect to earn about $0.17 per day salvaging whatever usable raw materials are left. They wade through the highly toxic remains, which are often dumped in the waterways, on farmland, or along roadsides. Local air quality suffers when CRT circuit boards are desoldered outdoors or piles of e-waste are set on fire to melt the plastics away from more valuable raw materials.
A report from the Public Affairs Information Service provides further depth: “All e-waste contains Mercury and Lead, and the practices of open burning of plastic waste, exposure to toxic solders, river dumping of acids, and widespread general dumping has become a threat to villagers’ health, environment, and culture.”
National Public Radio reports: “About 50 percent of the electronics waste sent into these areas is discarded. Lead levels in some rivers have been found to be 190 times higher than levels considered acceptable by the World Health Organization. Villagers report stomach and breathing problems, and have to ship in their drinking water.”
Poorer communities receive less dependable supplies of fresh drinking water, and those who rely on fishing for their survival and cultural identity are negatively impacted by toxic pollutants in their fishery. All of this serves to widen the considerable gap between the wealthy individuals who bring e-waste into the region and the exploited poor who work for them — as well as those who don’t. Environmental toxins affect everyone in the environment.