By 2015, 60 million tons of electronic waste will make it into landfills and leach out toxic material to people and the environment. Lead, cadmium, mercury, beryllium and flame retardants are just some of the toxic materials that contaminate the environment. That's everything from computers to televisions to printers to cell phones. Most of the e-waste is exported to China.
Researchers at Zhejiang University sampled the air near a couple of e-waste dismantling centers in China. What happens to human lung epithelial cells when pollutants are released during the recycling process? The organic pollutant and heavy metals are released in the air. When people breath in, it accumulates in their bodies.
The researchers found that electronic waste can cause inflammation and oxidative stress, which are conditions that can later lead to cardiovascular disease, DNA damage and cancer.
"Furthermore, one must consider the initial manufacturing process of electrical goods and look to utilize more environmentally and human friendly materials in their production," Fangxing Yang, of Zhejiang University, said in a statement.
This reminds me of when the SmartPlanet crew went out to Stanford to interview a team of students about their recyclable laptops. The key to their design was making the laptop modular, so each individual piece can be disassembled without any tools.
Previously, SmartPlanet's Sumi Das talked to HP about how it created facilities around the world to make recycling safer. With more and more electronics being produced and tossed out each year, something has to give: Companies are making it a priority to develop hardware that can be disposed of so its parts are easy on the environment.
Das said: " In fact, the problem has become so large that e-waste is now the fastest growing segment of the municipal waste system around the world."