Health Impact of Technotrash

Technotrash that ends up in landfills is full of toxic materials, including heavy metals, that can easily seep into the ground and ultimately get into groundwater supplies.

Computers and other devices are composed of a cocktail of chemicals and heavy metals. Add that inherent risk to the extremely dangerous and toxic methods used to dismantle them in towns like Giuyu, and you have a deadly combination. To give just a few examples:

  • A 2007 Shantou University Medical College study showed that 88% of children in Giuyu had dangerously elevated Blood Lead Levels (BLL). A nearby town uninvolved in toxic waste processing was used as a basis for comparison. There, the rate of elevated BLLs was just below 32%.
  • Recyclers often use hydrochloric acid to strip computer chips and other gold-plated materials, creating fumes that are highly dangerous to inhale and polluting water sources with acid.
  • To remove copper from computer wires, workers often simply burn the wires. Open burning releases unhealthy hydrocarbons into the air.
  • Workers who dismantle cathode ray tubes (used in TV screens and computer monitors) face the risk of silicosis, a chronic lung disease often associated with miners, and other risks from inhaling heavy metals.

--Liz Soltan