Thousands of tonnes of used electronics and illegal e-waste are imported into Nigeria annually. High demand for used European electronics, inefficient regulation, and a local lack of recycling facilities together form a growing hazard.
According to the World Health Organization, children are especially vulnerable to the health risks that may result from e-waste exposure and, therefore, need more specific protection. As they are still growing, children’s intake of air, water and food in proportion to their weight is significantly increased compared to adults, – and with that, the risk of hazardous chemical absorption.
Furthermore, their bodies’ functional systems such as the central nervous, immune, reproductive and digestive system are still developing and exposure to toxic substances, by hampering further development, may cause irreversible damage. Many children are exposed to e-waste-derived chemicals in their daily life due to unsafe recycling activities that are often conducted at their home- either by family members or by the children themselves. Also, children may be exposed through dump sites located close to their homes, schools and play areas.
Primitive recycling methods such as burning cables for retaining the inherent copper expose both adult and child workers as well as their families to a range of hazardous substances. E-waste-connected health risks may result from direct contact with harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), from inhalation of toxic fumes, as well as from accumulation of chemicals in soil, water and food. In addition to its hazardous components, being processed, e-waste can give rise to a number of toxic by-products likely to affect human health.
A team of journalists from Nigeria, Norway and Denmark has traced the e-waste’s route through Nigeria’s informal sector of importers, scavengers, and repairers to hazardous dismantlers and sub-standard recyclers. While e-waste dump Agbogbloshie of Ghana has been in the media spotlight for years, Nigeria’s e-waste problem especially in places called ‘computer village’ is overlooked despite the fact that it’s five times larger than its Ghanaian counterpart.
The investigation also took the team to buying and shipping points in Germany and revealed how loopholes in European law enforcements allow illegal shipments of e-waste to take place. Used electronics serve as valuable IT to Africa’s largest population. But once they reach their end of life, a lack of responsibility for their disposal forms a serious hazard to human health and other forms of life.
See the report by Premium Times produced using grants from Journalismfund.eu