America's Electronic Waste Is Polluting the Globe

By Eliza Strickland | October 30, 2009 10:48 am

e-wasteIt seems that every day brings a new electronic gadget to the market, whether it’s a smart phone, an electronic reader, a laptop the size and weight of a magazine, or a television the size of a wall. But each advance adds to the world’s electronic waste, which is the fastest-growing component of solid waste. Much of the electronic refuse ends up in developing countries, where workers strip down the gadgets to get at the copper and other valuable metals inside, often exposing themselves to toxins in the process. Now, scientists are calling for federal regulations in the United States to stem the tide.

Although the U.S. is one the world’s largest producers of electronic waste (e-waste), it is hardly a leader in addressing this problem, given that the country has “no legally enforceable federal policies requiring comprehensive recycling of e-waste or elimination of hazardous substances from electronic products,” the researchers say [Scientific American]. Instead, e-waste policies are left to the states, not all of which have laws on the books. In the article, published in Science, the authors note that the United States has not ratified the Basel Convention, which regulates the movement of hazardous wastes across international borders and has the support of 169 of the 192 United Nations member countries [Scientific American].

Electronics can contain a host of dangerous materials, from heavy metals to toxic chemicals. Toxic e-waste shows up in forms as varied as high lead levels in the blood of children in Guiya, China, where millions of tonnes of e-waste are illegally dumped, and as fire-retardant chemicals in the eggs of California’s peregrine falcons [CBC News].

Related Content:
80beats: In a Bad Economy, Recyclables Are Just Pieces of Junk
80beats: Government Report Slams EPA for Lax Regulation of Electronic Waste
DISCOVER: 20 Thing You Didn’t Know About… Recycling

Image: Basel Action Network. E-waste in a Nigerian dump.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »