Traded in your cell phone for a new model recently? Starting to worry that your PC’s nearly three years old? If the answer’s Yes, then chances are you’re guilty of e-wasting.

What is e-waste?
The ‘E’ in e-waste stands for electronic, so that includes old computers, cell phones, TVs, radios and a vast pile of other discarded electronic equipment. And, given that this technology gets upgraded so quickly, and that the initial cost of many electronic devices in fact decreases with time, we’re buying more of the stuff and chucking it more rapidly. Which suits the manufacturers just fine, as their advertising campaigns attest.

How e-waste affects our health
A piece of cable reclining on the scrap-heap might seem harmless, but in fact there are some rather convincing arguments to class it as ‘hazardous waste’. This is because electronic equipment contains a nasty assortment of toxic substances, which, as it breaks down, can enter the environment and our bodies.

To name just a few examples:

Lead. When lead dust gets swallowed or inhaled, it has pretty much a total onslaught on the body: brain damage, developmental and behavioral problems, anemia, liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, loss of co-ordination, reproductive problems. It’s especially dangerous for small children and pregnant women. And it’s commonly used in electronic equipment e.g. in solder, batteries, cable sheathing, TV cathode-ray tubes and monitors, circuit boards.

Mercury. Another heavy metal found in e.g. batteries, fluorescent lamps, circuit breakers, thermostats. Can cause brain and liver damage if swallowed or inhaled.

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