India's Rapidly Growing E-Waste Damaging Children's Health
(3BL Media/Justmeans) - In many advanced economies, children play with electronic gadgets. In India, children from poor families work to dismantle them to earn a small livelihood—exposing themselves to harmful radiation. Over 35,000 to 45,000 child labourers aged 10-14 in India’s capital, Delhi, are estimated to be working in the mounds of e-waste without proper protection, according to a recent study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM). The Chamber is strongly advocating the need for effective legislation to prevent entry of child labour into e-waste activities. India produces more than 55m tonnes of solid waste annually, as the demand for consumer electronics keeps growing; by 2015, Delhi is likely to generate 50,000 metric tons of e-waste.
India has been growing at an average GDP growth rate of 8.025 per cent for the last eight years, with a population of 1.2 billion people, and Delhi is emerging as the world's dumping capital for e-waste; this city alone gets around 85 per cent of the electronic waste generated in the developed world. The ASSOCHAM report highlights that as many as 8,500 mobile phones, 5,500 TVs and 3,000 personal computers are dismantled in the capital every day for reuse of their component parts and materials. While other Indian cities such as Mumbai and Chennai are the top importers of junk computers and electronic waste in India, Delhi has emerged as the main hub of e-waste recycling in the country; all the e-waste imported from Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai makes its way to the capital.
The other message of this report is that recyclers working on the e-waste dumps here are poorly protected from the toxins seeping from the discarded PC monitors, CDs, cables, toner cartridges, light bulbs and tube-lights as they are burned in the open, releasing lead and mercury into the air. Sadly, many of these unprotected workers are children. As there are no clear guidelines for the workers to handle e-waste, the recyclers themselves are not fully aware of the health risks.
Exposure to these harmful by-products can cause headache, irritability, nausea, vomiting and eye pain. Recyclers may suffer liver, kidney and neurological disorders by working in poorly ventilated enclosed areas without masks and exposure to dangerous and slow-poisoning chemicals. However, one of the biggest wild cards in better practices in waste management is human behaviour. If you can’t convince people to care enough to participate, even the best-designed solution doesn’t stand much chance of succeeding or having a positive impact.
There is some light to Delhi’s e-waste story. Attero, India's largest electronic asset management company, has collaborated with the Shri Ram School to promote e-waste collection for eco-friendly recycling. Attero has been actively organising e-waste collection drives in various areas in the capital in a bid to raise public awareness about e-waste hazards. Strengthening its commitment towards the cause, Attero is keen encourage the next generation to recycle e-waste responsibly.
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