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 user 2009-03-13 at 12:24:06 pm Views: 72
  • #21745

    E-waste posing health threats to urban populace
    KOLKATA, March 09: Poor proper e-waste management system is threatening people in urban areas of the state, with elements like lead, mercury, cadmium and barium holding the potential to seriously affect the brain, eyes and nervous system.West Bengal currently accounts for 14 per cent of the 3,30,000 pieces of e-waste produced in the country every year. Worn-out computer peripherals are mostly recycled or processed in illegal recycling units in and around Kolkata. 94 per cent of business organisations dealing with computer peripherals do not maintain a proper recycling system.An official at the state IT department said that the state government had initiated a study to calculate the amount of e-waste produced in the state. An initiative has also been taken to set up an effective e-waste management system.

    E-waste products include worn-out computer peripherals, printed wiring boards, lead-acid batteries, electronic compressors, LCD screens and alkaline batteries. All contain high levels of elements like lead, mercury, cadmium and barium. They are generally sold to local scrap traders.Local traders engage workers to extract expensive components from worn-out peripherals. Since computer peripherals consist of lead, processing them in the open air increases pollution levels.Workers in illegal recycling units burn computer peripherals, including circuit boards, videotapes and printer cartridges, to extract chips. Extracted chips are then sold to traders in local markets at cheap rates. Workers also extract carbon from print cartridges in these illegal units. While doing so they inhale carbon dust which may cause respiratory problems.People living in areas where the work is carried out are also becoming exposed to such harmful elements.

    Dr Sankha Subhra Chowdhury, a neurologist with a city-based private nursing home, said: “People gradually become affected with various brain-related diseases due to constant exposure to these elements. They often complain of problems like headaches, light-headedness and psychiatric symptoms. Children are the worst sufferers. Lead exposure frequently causes memory loss and affects the nervous system.”Cadmium also causes various complications including lung cancer and the possibility of kidney damage. It is extracted from worn-out rechargeable batteries, fluorescent layer (CRT) screens, Xerox machine printer drums, printer inks and toners. Cadmium is also believed to cause pulmonary emphysema and bone disease such as osteoporosis,” said Dr Chowdhury