WHO cautions that Rising E-Waste has an Impact on the Health of Millions of Children

According to a new ground-breaking report from the World Health Organization, Children and Digital Dumpsites, effective and binding action is urgently needed to protect the millions of children, adolescents, and expectant mothers whose health is jeopardized by the informal processing of discarded electrical or electronic devices.

According to WHO, With rising production and disposal volumes, the globe is facing a growing “tsunami of e-waste,” putting lives and health in danger, according to one recent international gathering.

As many as 12.9 million women work in the informal garbage sector, putting themselves and their unborn children at risk of harmful e-waste exposure.

Meanwhile, more than 18 million children and adolescents, some as young as five years old, work in the informal industrial sector, which includes trash processing. Because children’s hands are more dexterous than adults’, they are frequently involved in e-waste recycling by their parents or caretakers. Other children live, attend school, and play near e-waste recycling centers, where they are exposed to high quantities of harmful substances, primarily lead and mercury, which can harm their cognitive ability.

Because of their smaller size, less developed organs, and quick rate of growth and development, children exposed to e-waste are particularly vulnerable to the hazardous compounds it contains. They absorb more contaminants than people their size, and their systems are less able to digest or eliminate hazardous substances.

Over 1,000 hazardous compounds, including lead, mercury, nickel, brominated flame retardants, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are at danger of exposure by workers attempting to extract valuable commodities such as copper and gold (PAHs).

Changes in lung function, pulmonary and respiratory effects, DNA damage, reduced thyroid function, and an increased risk of several chronic diseases later in life, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, are all linked to e-waste.

Globally, e-waste volumes are increasing. They increased by 21% in the five years leading up to 2019, when 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated, according to the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership (GESP). For perspective, last year’s e-waste weighed as much as 350 cruise ships placed end to end to form a line 125km long.

Children and Digital Dumpsites demand that exporters, importers, and governments take effective and binding action to ensure environmentally sound e-waste disposal and the health and safety of workers, their families, and communities; to monitor e-waste exposure and health outcomes, and to facilitate better material reuse and to promote the production of more long-lasting electronic and electrical equipment.

It also encourages the medical community to take steps to mitigate the negative health effects of e-waste by increasing healthcare capacity to diagnose, monitor, and prevent toxic exposure in children and women, as well as raising awareness of the potential co-benefits of more responsible recycling and  collaborating with affected communities and campaigning for improved statistics and health studies on the health dangers posed by informal e-waste workers

Photo Credit: https://www.dw.com/en/world-health-day-what-does-the-who-do/a-53024471