How Electronic Waste Impacts the Environment & Human Health

Electronics Recycling Bin

E-waste refers to discarded electronic devices. Some of the most common examples of e-waste include computers, televisions, VCRs, DVD players, cameras, and CD players. Many people think that once a computer, cell phone, or other electronic device reaches the end of its useful life, it’s okay to just throw it away, but that’s simply not true.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the negative effects that electronic waste has on both the environment and public health. 

Negative Effects of E-Waste on the Environment

Throwing an old cell phone away doesn’t seem very impactful at the time, but most e-waste will go directly into a landfill. Once in a landfill, this waste can lead to mercury, lead, cadmium, lithium, and other toxins in the soil, air, and water. 

Soil Pollution

When heavy metals and flame retardants from e-waste feed into the soil, they can contaminate nearby crops. This can then lead to illnesses. Additionally, when large particles from e-waste seep into the soil, they can remain there for a very long time. These chemicals will affect the soil’s pH, composition, and temperature, and ultimately affect the plants and wildlife in the area.

Air Pollution

When electronic waste is dismantled, shredded, or melted, it releases numerous toxins that pollute the air. When people are exposed to air pollution, they can develop lifelong conditions, including chronic lung disease and sometimes cancer. Even worse, the toxins released from e-waste can travel thousands of miles, which can impact plants, animals, and humans that don’t even live close to the original disposal site. 

Water Pollution

Lastly, when toxins released from e-waste enter soil, it’s highly likely that they will also reach groundwater, and then nearby ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water. These chemicals can change the pH of the water, which kills freshwater organisms, damages ecosystems, and even causes health issues to the animals who drink this water. Also remember that water can travel for miles, which means the problem will continue to spread to nearby areas. 

How E-Waste Affects Your Health

E-waste doesn’t just affect the environment, wildlife, and plants. In this article, we’ve briefly covered that air pollution can cause chronic lung conditions and cancer in humans, but there are also other ways that e-waste can affect human health.

Specifically, exposure to barium, chromium, lead, zinc, and nickel can damage kidneys, the heart, brain, and the nervous and reproductive systems. Electronic waste may also have possible teratogenic effects. Although this is still an active area of research, some studies have shown that these substances can cause stillbirths and affect the weight of newborn babies. Lastly, when unborn children are exposed to this type of waste, it can increase their chances of developing mental health issues and behavioral problems. 

Recycle Old Electronic Devices

Recycling Electronics

Although throwing one phone away will not immediately cause all of these negative effects, it still adds to the bigger problem. 

According to a report from the United Nations, around 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste is generated worldwide every year. That’s a lot of waste! Especially when so many components in electronic devices can be recycled. In fact, author Greg Voakes mentions in his article with Business Insider that Americans throw away phones that contain over $60 million in gold and silver every year. That gold and silver could have been used to manufacture other components! In the end, opting to recycle electronic waste not only has a positive impact on the environment, but also vastly reduces manufacturing costs. 

Recycle Your Electronics at High Tech Recycling

High Tech Recycling is a recycling center serving clients in the metro Detroit, Michigan area, including Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties. Since our founding in 2011, we’ve been committed to keeping electronic devices out of landfills. If you have questions about electronic waste recycling or would like to schedule a pickup, please contact us today.

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