'Save our kids from computer toxics' scientists warn

Sep 16, 2013

An international scientific expert has called for an urgent global effort to save the coming generation of children from being poisoned by toxic residues from the world's ever-growing garbage pile of old mobile phones, computers and electronic devices.

"Electronic waste (or e-waste) is the world's fastest growing , rising by 3-5 per cent every year, due to the decreased lifespan of the average computer from six years to two," says Professor Ming Hung Wong of Hong Kong Baptist University.

"In countries such as Australia the disposal of e-waste in generates a potent leachate, which has high concentrations of flame retardant chemicals and heavy metals. These can migrate through soils and groundwater and eventually reach people via and the food chain."

Professor Wong will deliver a keynote paper at CleanUp 2013, the world's leading scientific contamination conference, which is being held in Melbourne this week.

In many countries in Asia and Africa, e-waste from advanced nations is being recycled under extremely primitive conditions which lead to extensive pollution of air, water, food and people, he says. Gradually these toxins make their way around the world in food and water and via trade, posing a risk to everyone.

"The generated through open burning of e-waste include PCDD, PBDEs, PAHs, PCBs and (especially lead) have given rise to serious environmental contamination.

"Some of these toxic chemicals are known to build up in fish especially, which may then be traded locally and around the world. In general, any food items originating in e- areas are highly contaminated, leading to sharp increases in cancers and heart disease and other ailments in people who consume them."

Professor Wong says that science has now clearly demonstrated the risk of these toxic chemicals being passed on to the next generation, while babies are still in the womb, or in their mother's milk.

"At the same time these e-waste contaminated sites are extremely hard to clean up due to the complex chemical mixtures they contain. However the time may soon be coming when developing countries will no longer accept e-waste from consumers in developed countries – and every nation will have to take care of its own.

"It is clear there is an urgent need to manage e-waste more efficiently in all countries and through better international collaboration."

Total world e-waste production has been estimated as high as 50 million tonnes a year, and is a growing component of the world's estimated annual output of 400 million tonnes of hazardous waste, only a small fraction of which is safely disposed.

Professor Wong will deliver his keynote address at the conference at 9.30am on Monday 16 September.

Explore further: Almost 20 percent of grain in China lost or wasted from field to fork

More information: www.cleanupconference.com/

Provided by CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hong Kong launches plan to tackle waste crisis

May 20, 2013

Hong Kong on Monday launched a ten-year plan to reduce waste by 40 percent per person as part of efforts to catch up with other leading Asian cities and avert a looming environmental crisis.

Saving Earth's water from toxic waste

Aug 20, 2013

Scientists have devised a better way to protect groundwater from acids, heavy metals and toxic chemicals, helping to secure the Earth's main freshwater supply.

'Catastrophic' e-waste fuels global toxic dump

Nov 13, 2009

A "catastrophic accumulation" of dozens of millions of tonnes of "e-waste" from computers, cellphones and television sets is fuelling a global pile of hazardous waste, an international body warned Friday.

Are there drugs in our water?

Sep 16, 2013

Recreational drugs could become a major source of Australian urban water contamination, scientists warn.

Recommended for you

Tracking giant kelp from space

11 hours ago

Citizen scientists worldwide are invited to take part in marine ecology research, and they won't have to get their feet wet to do it. The Floating Forests project, an initiative spearheaded by scientists ...

Heavy metals and hydroelectricity

12 hours ago

Hydraulic engineering is increasingly relied on for hydroelectricity generation. However, redirecting stream flow can yield unintended consequences. In the August 2014 issue of GSA Today, Donald Rodbell of ...

What's wiping out the Caribbean corals?

13 hours ago

Here's what we know about white-band disease: It has already killed up to 95 percent of the Caribbean's reef-building elkhorn and staghorn corals, and it's caused by an infectious bacteria that seems to be ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Neinsense99
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2013
Brainwashed consumption for the short-term interests of the gadget producers. If you wonder how humans ever achieved fulfillment before the smartphone or laptop, you are a big part of the problem. I don't plan on getting the latest phone until my curent Galaxy Q wears out or disappears. You can do what 90% of home computer users do on a 5 or 7 year old machine running a lightweight Linux distribution, even 10 years old. Live life without the bloat at your throat.