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Free «Effects of Electronic Waste on Health and Environment» Essay Sample

In the developed nation, electronic industry is among the fastest growing and largest manufacturing industries. Rapid technological developments, as well as fast obsolescence of electronic products, have led to the existence of large quantities of electronic and electrical wastes in the environment (Jiamo et al. 831). Electronic wastes are different from other industrial wastes because they constitute of both environmental contaminants and valuable materials. However, because of strict environmental regulations and high labor costs to dispose of electronic waste in landfills or export them to the third world nations, where the electronic wastes can undergo reuse upon recycling (Maxianova 272). The current research shows that electronic waste production exceeds twenty million tons annually.  Developed countries export about 75 percent of the electronic waste to the developing nations, such as India, Pakistan, and China to undergo recycle (Jiamo et al. 831). This discussion will consider the negative effects of electronic waste on health and environment, both in the developed and developing countries across the world.

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Studies have shown that electronic waste can be toxic if people treat and discard them in an improper manner. Planned obsolescence, rapid development of technology, and low initial production costs have led to the presence of significant of electronic waste in both developing and developed nations (Lepawsky, Josh, and Chris 181). Because of lower working conditions and environmental standards in Ghana, Nigeria, India, China, and other developing countries, the developed countries send electronic wastes to these countries without considering the possible negative environmental and health effects of the poor citizens (Osuagwu, Oliver, and Charles 142). Uncontrolled disposal, burning, and disassembly of electronic waste cause a wide range of health and environmental problems, which include health effects and occupational safety amongst those individuals involved directly in processing the electronic wastes (Osuagwu, Oliver, and Charles 143). Some of the negative environmental impacts of the electronic waste include pollution and contamination of air, soil, and water. Environmental pollution and contamination can lead to various health problems including damage to nervous and blood circulatory systems, immune systems, skin and DNA, and can result in the development of respiratory disorders, lung cancer, and retardation of brain development.

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Most electronics contain heavy metals such as tin, copper, lead, titanium, selenium, among others. Some electronic materials contain carbon and sulphur, which pollute air upon combustion. Therefore, the constituent materials of electronic gadgets such as computers, television, refrigerators, electronic textile, and speakers pollute and contaminate air, water, and soil. Incineration of electronic waste makes the presence of poisonous substances, such as sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide, in air (Eddy et al. 1238). These impurities can get their way into the human body through inhalation. Using electronic waste as landfills can lead to the leaching of heavy metals and other harmful constituent elements into the water table. Crops may also absorb heavy metals and other harmful elements, which accumulate over time (Eddy et al. 1238). Human beings may get heavy metals in their bodies by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated sea foods and plants. Electronic textile wastes are common in developed countries, where they contribute to the environmental problems, such as the addition of solid, non-biodegradable materials into the soil and water bodies (Köhler, Hilty, and Conny 505). In fiber recycling, processing of electronic-textile wastes leads to the emission of dust particles containing various heavy metals unexpectedly, especially when shredding electronic waste. Therefore, this can cause environmental and occupational health problems.

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Computer monitors contain lead metal, which damages the peripheral and central nervous systems, kidneys, and blood circulatory system upon accumulation. Accumulation of lead can also lead to retardation of brain development among young children. Semiconductors and chip resistors contain cadmium, which leads to the development of various health problems, including neural damage, liver and kidney damage, and act as teratogens during pregnancy (Osuagwu, Oliver, and Charles 144). Circuit boards, switches, and relays contain mercury. Bioaccumulation of mercury in fish and other aquatic crustaceans serves as a way this heavy metal gets its way into the human body. Accumulation of mercury in the body causes skin and respiratory disorders, as well as the brain damage. The front glass panels of Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors contain barium, which accumulates in the human body and weakens muscles and damages the heart, spleen, and liver. The motherboard of electronic gadgets contains beryllium. Accumulation of beryllium leads to the development of warts, lung cancer, and chronic beryllium problem in human beings. The plastic framework of electronic gadgets contains bromine, which disrupts the functions of human endocrine system (Eddy et al. 1238). Developing and developed nations should take appropriate steps toward preventing or minimizing the exposure of citizens to electronic wastes (Köhler, Hilty, and Conny 507).

Nations have implemented a variety of efforts toward averting the dangers that electronic waste pose to human beings. The most common effort is the Basal Convention, which reduces the movement of electronic waste from the developed nations to the developing countries (Osuagwu, Oliver, and Charles 144). However, this treaty does not prevent the transfer of radioactive wastes from one country to another country. This treaty also aims at minimizing toxicity and the amount of electronic wastes for easier management. Cycling of old electronic equipment is another strategy that countries employ to avoid discarding them as electronic wastes (Osuagwu, Oliver, and Charles 146). Industries should design electronic gadgets with little amount of harmful materials, especially the heavy metals. Citizens may also contribute to reducing the disposing of the electronic wastes by donating old electronic gadgets to organizations or low-income individuals (Osuagwu, Oliver, and Charles 149).

In conclusion, the availability of electronic wastes in the environment can pose devastating effects both to the environment and human beings, deteriorating their health. Rapid change in technological advances is among the reasons that lead to the presence of electronic waste in the environment. Developed countries find the developing countries as their dumping sites for electronic waste, in which they undergo reuse. It is the responsibility of governments, industries, and individuals to lessen the amount of electronic waste in the environment (Osuagwu, Oliver, and Charles 149).


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