Researchers have discovered that heavy metals from electronic waste that are toxic to humans have spread into the markets, soccer fields, schools and churches of the outlying communities in the capital city of Accra in Ghana.
Dangerous levels of metals including iron, lead, magnesium, nickel, copper, chromium, cadmium, and zinc were found across Accra, away from the Agbogbloshie scrap yard where locals burn plastic in order to extract metals.
The studies were conducted during this summer and were presented on Sunday at the University of Ghana in Legon by Atiemo Sampson. “The livelihood of many people now depends on the income generated by these activities at e-waste scrap yards,” Sampson notes. “Therefore any solution must recognize their role and focus on improving health, safety, and environmental standards.”
While destructive to the environment, the illegal practice of shipping electronic waste, including old cell phones, has a big financial incentive. The report says that 100,000 cell phones contain around $130,000 in gold, $27,300 in silver and $100,000 of copper.
A study that was conducted by the government of Ghana two years ago back in 2009 reported that around 215,000 tons of electronics were imported into the country, around 70 percent were used items that had been imported illegally and that of the 70 percent, 15 percent were nothing but trash to begin with. Many other products tend to become electronic waste fairly quickly due to their short lifespan in comparison to new items.