Improperly recycling electronics, sending it to the landfills or incinerating it releases highly toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the environment. This threatens the health of human beings as well as all living things. Some of these dangerous chemicals and heavy metals released into the atmosphere are lead mercury, cadmium, dioxins, and brominated flame retardants.
Electronic devices such as television and computer monitors, printers, VCRs, cell phones, telephones, radios, and microwave ovens often contain heavy metals like lead, copper, and cadmium, and, chromium.
Lead is one of the most toxic metals found in large amounts in TVs and computer monitors. Lead can affect almost every part of the body, from the central nervous system, to the kidney, and the reproductive system. It is especially poisonous to the nervous system of children. At high levels, lead may decrease quick reflex response, cause weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles, and can affect memory.
Brominated flame retardants are found in printed circuit boards, plastic covers and cables as well as plastic covers of televisions. We don't know as much about the adverse effect of brominated flame retardants as we do for lead and mercury. But research has shown that one of these flame retardants, Polybrominated Diphenylethers (PDBE) might act as an endocrine disruptor. Another flame retardant Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB) may increase cancer risk of the digestive and lymph systems. If we don't make sure electronics are recycled properly, if we just trash it , then it will end up in the land fills or are burned. Then these cancer causing substances leach into the soil and air. They will eventually find their way into the food supply.
Hexvalent Chromium or Chromium VI are corrison protectors for galvanized steel plates. Chromium can damage DNA and can cause bronchitis, and asthma. We can be exposed to them when they leach into the soil in landfills or when e-waste is incinerated.
Cadmium is found in chip resistors, infrared detectors, and semiconductors. Cadmium can accumulate in and negatively impact, the kidneys. Cadmium is persistent, accumulates in the body and is toxic. The principle way we get exposed to it is through respiration and through our food.
Mercury is a toxic metal that can cause harm to people and animals including nerve damage and birth defects. If mercury is released into the environment, it can contaminate the air we breath and enter streams, rivers, and the ocean, where it can contaminate fish that people eat. Ingested mercury is almost completely absorbed into the blood and distributed to all tissues including the brain and readily passes through the placenta into the fetus. Mercury is linked to learning disorders, behavioral difficulties, lower IQ and many other illnesses.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element, when distributed inorganic arsenic may be released into the air or water. Arsenic is released into the air when lead containing e-waste is incinerated. breathing Arsenic may give you a sore throat or irritate your lungs. Ingesting large amounts of Arsenic can cause death.
The effects of not recycling electronic waste properly will impact public public health very negatively if something is not done about it quickly. In this electronic age, newer, faster, and better electronics are being churned out it seems almost daily, and our e-waste is doubling and tripling at the same rate. E- waste is the fastest growing solid waste stream in the US according to the EPA. If every effort is not made to make sure most of the electronic waste is recycled the way it is supposed to be , we are going to damage the environment and we are going to have a huge public health problem on our hands. The cost in human life as well as the financial cost will be immense if sensible intelligent solutions are not found.