Old cell phones and other electrical goods which end up as poorly disposed of e-waste are a major threat to human health, according to a new report. A study published today in the IOP Publishing journal “Environmental Research letters” claims that improperly disposed of e-waste cause inflammation and oxidative stress in human beings – symptoms that are frequently the forerunners to illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even damage to actual DNA. The researchers who conducted the study took air samples from one of the biggest dismantling plants of e-waste in China and found that the cruder recycling processes in the country are releasing many of the pollutants into the atmosphere, which the recycling is supposed to protect against.
More than 20 million tons of e-waste, including old cell phones, televisions, computers, printers and so on, is generated every year all around the world and a large amount of it ends up being exported – sometimes illegally – to countries such as China.
“Both inflammatory response and oxidative stress may lead to DNA damage, which could include oncogenesis, or even cancer,” says Zhejiang University’s Doctor Fangxing Yang, who also served as co-author on the controversial study. “Of course, inflammatory response and oxidative stress are also associated with other diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases…From these results it is clear that the ‘open’ dismantlement of e-waste must be forbidden with more primitive techniques improved… the results show potential adverse affects on human health.”