IPEN and BAN call for stronger controls in upcoming Conference to the Parties of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions
Monday, 22 April 2019
(Göteborg, Sweden): New research from IPEN and Basel Action Network (BAN) reveals dire human exposures and food chain contamination from highly toxic plastics in waste in Ghana that includes toxic e-waste shipped from Europe. Researchers have found the highest levels of brominated and chlorinated dioxins— some of the most hazardous chemicals on Earth— ever measured in free-range chicken eggs in Agbogbloshie, Ghana. The contamination results primarily from the breaking apart of discarded electronics (e-waste) and burning plastics to recover metals. Plastics from vehicle upholstery are also burned on the site and contribute to the contamination.
Researchers analyzed the eggs of free-range chickens that forage in the Agbogbloshie slum, home to an estimated 80,000 people who subsist primarily by retrieving and selling copper cable and other metals from e-waste. The process of smashing and burning the plastic casing and cables, to extract the metals, releases dangerous chemicals found within the plastics, such as brominated flame retardants, and creates highly toxic by-product chemicals like brominated and chlorinated dioxins and furans. The sampling of eggs revealed alarmingly high levels of some of the most hazardous and banned chemicals in the world, including dioxins, brominated dioxins, PCBs, PBDE and SCCPs.
Incineration of medical waste and open burning of waste – including electronic waste – are potentially large sources of toxic chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These substances are slated for global reduction and elimination under the Stockholm Convention.
The most recent IPEN Global Newsletter, presenting information from January - July, 2018, focuses on electronics and chemicals. The newsletter opens with a message from IPEN's Senior Science and Technical Advisor, who reminds us that electronics production is chemically intensive, using more than a thousand chemicals and other materials (many of which are hazardous). This causes harm to workers and communities in production, exposes consumers to toxic chemicals during use, and releases toxics chemcials when products become e-waste or when plastics used in electronics are recycled into new products.
Authorities in Thailand say their country is becoming the new dumping ground for the world's illegal electronic waste.
"It could be the cause of different kinds of cancer diseases. And a in situation like this, the chemical smell could cause damage to the respiratory systems of the people," said Penchom Saetang, Director of EARTH.