Children in Ghana are exposed to chemicals such as lead, mercury and cadmium in locals dumps, but the waste comes from around the world. They go to the dumps to look for copper wire that can be sold from broken computers, telephone answering machines and televisions that have been discarded.
Some of the children built fires on which they toss large hunks of discarded electronics. The fire melts the plastic, revealing the copper wires inside. The fire also releases toxic fumes. Health effects related to e-waste include lowered IQ’s in children, nervous system defects and cancer.
In 2008 a Greenpeace study, “Not in My Backyard”, found that in Europe only 25 percent of the e-waste was recycled safely. In the U.S. it is only 20 percent and in developing countries it is less than one percent. There are calls from environmental groups likes Greenpeace for electronics producers to do more to phase out their use of hazardous substances, and there are some signs of progress.