Dumped Electronics Poisoning Poor in Asia

Computers and other electronics discarded in the West frequently end up in poor villages in China and India, where they are stripped for residues of valuable metals in primitive procedures that poison local communities. Enviro activists report that Chinese villagers cook circuit boards over open charcoal burners to strip chips, capacitors, and condensers, burn off PVC casing from wires, and dip the components in vats of warm acid to recover traces of precious metals. Needless to say, breathing molten lead and PVC fumes and working with acid have no salutary effect on the health of the women, children, and elderly involved. These practices, documented by Greenpeace China and the Basel Action Network, are a result of the huge market in e-waste shipping and recycling, much of it illegal. Though some companies and countries are slowly making efforts to tackle the e-waste problem, the millions of computers discarded each year are simply swamping current efforts at responsible recycling.