Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Poisoning the Poor

Greenpeace is calling for an end to what it calls "poisoning the poor". It wants electronics manufacturers to stop using hazardous materials and to take responsibility for the whole lifecycle of their products.

In Ghana the piles of old computers are increasing every week even though the trade is illegal.

As we upgrade at an ever faster rate, campaigners are calling for action to prevent toxic, electronic or "e" waste being dumped on poor countries.

The United Nations believes we generate between 20m and 50m tonnes of e-waste around the world each year. Agbobloshie dump site in Ghana's capital, Accra, is a computer graveyard. But PCs are not given a decent, safe burial - they are dumped on this expanding, toxic treasure trove. Many of the well-known brands are there: Compaq, Dell, Gateway, Philips, Canon, Hewlett Packard.

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace took soil and water samples from the scrap market and found high concentrations of leads, phthalates or plastic softeners and dioxins that are known to promote cancer.

"Chemicals like lead are very dangerous especially for children. They affect the brain when it is developing and therefore cause a lower IQ when they grow up," Greenpeace's Kim Schoppink says."Other chemicals we found cause cancer or disrupt your hormone system."

There are international laws banning the export of computer waste but people are getting round this by labelling the shipments "usable second-hand goods".

"My research shows that about 90% of the computers are just junk. They just don't work. This is dumping."

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