Greenpeace has called on the technology industry to clean up its act after it found toxic chemicals and heavy metals are routinely released into the environment during the recycling of electronic waste in India and China.
In a new report, Toxic Tech: Recycling of electronic wastes in China and India: workplace and environmental contamination, Greenpeace outlines how researchers examined dust from workshops, as well as wastewater, soil and sediment from local rivers.
"The data reinforces the need for the electronics industry to eliminate the use of harmful substances in their products at the design stage and take responsibility for their products at the end of their lifecycle," said Dr. Kevin Brigden, a Greenpeace International scientist, who collected the samples.
In the dust from working environments in China, the researchers found concentrations of lead as high as a hundred times the typical level in household dust. In India, the amount of lead was between five and 20 times as high as so-called background levels.
And this dust doesn't stay at work: samples collected from the homes of two e-waste workers in China revealed that even the home environments are contaminated with heavy metals, especially lead. Neighbours with no link to the recycling of electronic waste had far lower levels of these contaminants in their homes.
The report, the result of Greenpeace's investigation into the processing of e-waste in India and China's scrap yards, also says there is evidence that despite an EU ban on exporting hazardous waste, electronic waste is increasingly being sent from Europe to Asia for processing. The majority of the waste being processed still comes from the US.
You can read the full report here (pdf). ®