United Nations University, Solving the E-waste Problem initiative
Tests at a school beside an informal electronic waste salvage site in Ghana’s capital Accra reveal contamination due to lead, cadmium and other health-threatening pollutants over 50 times higher than risk-free levels.
A produce market, a church headquarters and a soccer field are likewise polluted to varying degrees, all neighbours of the Agbogbloshie scrap metal site, where electronic trash is scavenged for valuable metals – especially copper. Schoolchildren as young as six work around bonfires of circuitry, plastic and other leftover high-tech trash.
Ironically, experts say critical metals and other elements in all that destroyed equipment — much of it castoffs from Europe and North America — may soon be in short supply, which threatens to drive up the cost of products ranging from flat-screen TVs and mobile phones to electric cars and wind turbines.
The contamination test results were shared by Ghana researcher Atiemo Sampson at this year’s Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP-Initiative) Summer School, hosted in Europe by Philips and Umicore for 20 of the field’s most promising international graduate researchers.
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