Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, released recently by the International Telecommunication Union, the UN University and the International Solid Waste Association, said the increasing levels of e-waste, which includes mobile phones, laptops, televisions, refrigerators and electrical toys, and its improper and unsafe treatment and disposal through burning at dumpsites have caused millions of deaths around the world.
The report cited e-waste management as an urgent issue to protect people as it poses a major threat to the environment and human health.
“Environmental protection is one of the pillars of sustainable development. E-waste management is an urgent issue in today's digitally dependent world where use of electronic devices is ever increasing,” said ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.
The World Health Organization adds that one of the emerging environmental threats to children is electronic and electrical waste. Appliances such as old mobile phones that are improperly recycled “expose children to toxins which can lead to reduced intelligence, attention deficit, lung damage, and cancer,” it said.
The UN estimates that at the current rate, e-waste is expected to increase by 19 percent between 2014 and 2018, up to 50 million metric tons. Experts foresee e-waste increasing further to 52.2 million MT by 2021. The improper and irresponsible disposal of e-waste is a significant contributor of the harmful chemicals that work themselves through the food chain such as fluoride, lead and mercury.
A UN health agency has already blamed the deaths of 1.7 million children under the age of five on unhealthy environments caused by pollutants such as secondhand smoke, UV radiation, unsafe water and e-waste.
Today's digital world has made life more convenient us but we have not given much thought to where our old and broken electronic gadgets go. With its accumulation and mismanagement posing a major threat to the environment and human health, we cannot afford to remain blissfully ignorant with regards to the e-waste we generate. The government and the private sector have to do their share when it comes to e-waste so we can maximize the benefits and minimize the backlash of our digital lifestyles.*